Public shooting ranges provide safe shooting environment, positive impact on local economies, and major funding source for wildlife conservation
PHOENIX — The demand for public shooting ranges in Arizona continues to increase at a pace to match recreational shooting demand and gun ownership, based on a March poll and recent report issued by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).
The report identifies that in 2009, Arizona businesses related to the firearms and ammunition industry provided 5,234 jobs, up 25 percent from 2008; paid $51 million in state taxes, up 221 percent; and contributed more than $738 million into the state’s economy, up 59 percent.
A March 2010 NSSF/Harris poll further supports the need for shooting ranges, identifying that 2.5 million more Americans nationally are target shooting now than were six months earlier. Additionally, 43 percent polled (representing nearly 98 million people) had some interest in trying shooting sports or hunting.
“When the firearm industry and firearm ownership grows, so does the demand for a place to shoot, and that’s where we come in,” said Jay Cook, shooting ranges branch chief of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Our shooting range program is committed to assuring that the public has a safe, controlled, and convenient place to shoot their firearms.”
Public shooting ranges provide more than a safe place to shoot; many of them are destinations and economic contributors to local communities.
“Recreational shooting has a positive impact on local communities in our state. In addition to buying firearms and ammunition, shooters spend their hard-earned dollars at local businesses buying gas, food, refreshments, shooting supplies, lodging, dining and much more,” added Cook. “Recreational shooting is good for business in Arizona.”
Shooters fund wildlife and shooting programs
The report also points out the industry paid $450 million in federal excise taxes through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, compared to $327 million in 2008. These dollars collected through the purchases of certain equipment by sportsmen and women are appropriated back to state wildlife agencies for wildlife conservation, hunter education, and shooting programs.
In 2009, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s apportionment of these federal dollars was $11 million.
Cook continued, “As an agency that doesn’t receive any funding from the state’s general tax fund, but rather operates on a user-pay, user-benefit business model, our primary sources of revenue are from license and tag sales, some range fees, and these federal appropriations.”
In keeping with that entrepreneurial model, those revenues and others are used to continue to grow the department’s customer base by offering expanded programs and services – including shooting range development and outreach recruitment programs.
In addition to providing a place to shoot, the Arizona Game and Fish Department knows education is key and offers an extensive line up of programs for beginning shooters as well as those looking to become more proficient, including:
Hunter education and firearm safety training – For more than 50 years the department has been teaching how to be safe with firearms, hunting and the outdoors.
Shooting range development – The Arizona Game and Fish Commission owns six shooting ranges and continues to identify areas that need a local range.
Grants to local ranges – Grants are made available to not-for-profit, public ranges for improvements, expansions, and developments.
Introductory shooting programs – Many shooting programs are available for air guns, archery, pistol, rifle and shotgun. There are programs for kids, women and families.
Team-sport-based programs – Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and Archery in the Schools (AIS) are both national programs that have a strong presence in Arizona.
Shooting leagues and clinics – There are a number of shooting leagues to help shooters to hone their skills and move to the next level of competitive shooting.
Olympic training – The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Ben Avery Shooting Facility has hosted the USA Archery Olympic Team Trials, and the facility’s Clay Target Center is a certified USA Shooting Regional Training Center for Olympic shotgun shooting.
For a listing of public shooting ranges in Arizona and shooting programs offered by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, visit www.azgfd.gov/shootingsports.
“However, as our state grows, and new developments encroach further into our public lands, it is paramount that we protect, preserve, and expand public shooting ranges and shooting programs for Arizona’s citizens who enjoy this recreational activity,” Cook concluded.