Wyoming has missed the mark by not having a world-class shooting complex that could draw tourism and boost the state to international status among firearms and archery enthusiasts, say proponents of a bill to launch the project.
The shooting sports are “growing by leaps and bounds,” and neighboring states with large shooting complexes have drawn steady streams of gun enthusiasts, and even hosted international competitions, said Rep. Art Washut, R-Casper.
He was speaking Thursday before the Wyoming Senate Appropriations Committee regarding Senate File 169, which passed the committee and placed on the Senate’s general file Friday.
“In our state, with a proud tradition of firearms, archery and black powder shooting, all facets of the shooting sports could have a state-of-the art facility,” Washut said.
The bill would set aside a fund of up to $10 million for expenditures related to the shooting complex.
If and when the facility is built and staffed, it would likely be through a combination of state and private enterprise funds, said the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs.
Communities Would Compete For The Prize
The bill calls for a 12-member “shooting complex task force” which would be charged with coming up with a design for the shooting complex. It also would accept proposals from Wyoming communities vying to host it, Hicks said.
He and Washut said the task force wouldn’t go into the project with any preconceived notions about which community would get the shooting complex. Instead, the decision would rest on the merits of the communities’ proposals.
There shouldn’t be a bias toward putting the complex in one of Wyoming’s larger cities or prominent travel hubs such as Casper or Jackson, said committee member Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton.
“Rural Wyoming should not be left out,” he said.
Far More Than Just A Gun Range
A shooting complex prestigious enough to draw national and international competitions would far exceed the scale of municipal ranges like the one in Cheyenne, Hicks said.
It would include ranges for all types of shooting, for pistols, black powder firearms, all types of archery, as well as full trap and skeet ranges for shotgun enthusiasts, Hicks said.
The latter might be good news for Wyoming’s growing roster of high school trap shooting teams. They now must travel to other states for regional and national tournaments.
It also could include an extreme long distance rifle range for shots out to 2 miles, Hicks said.
That would give Wyoming and visiting nonresident shooters a chance to rack up hits at roughly half the distance of a world-record 4.4-mile shot set last year by a Wyoming rifle team.
The complex could also include space for classes in wildlife conservation and firearms safety, said Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brain Nesvik.
Environmental, Health Concerns
A large-scale shooting complex could raise concerns about lead contamination hurting the environment, as well as the health of the facility’s staff, said shooting enthusiast Greg Hunter of Laramie.
So, the shooting complex task force should include experts in health and environmental safety to ensure that the facility doesn’t have those problems.
“A lot of people assume that all the lead and the highest pollution rates are downrange, when in fact the highest pollution rates are associated with the first 10 feet of the blast zone,” he said.
“People are that bad of shots, huh?” quipped committee chairman Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan.
“Well, it’s the lead arsenic. It’s actually the fine particles” emitted from the muzzles of firearms, Hunter said. “You don’t want to breathe lead. We took it out of gasoline for a reason, and the world got better.”