Recreational gun owners have been shooting in national forests for years, but the practice is under threat due to increasing conflicts between gun owners and conservationists.
Officials in several states have launched efforts to restrict shooting on public lands. The Bureau of Land Management enacted a two-year ban on target shooting in the Lake Mountains of Utah. A national forest in North Carolina banned target shooting until November.
Conservationists claim shooting on public land causes environmental destruction and unsafe conditions. According to the New York Times, hikers have been “pinned down” by gunfire and heard bullets whizzing overhead. Others described landscapes blighted by “trigger trash” -- bullet-riddled targets, shell casings and other gun-related debris.
Although it is unlikely the federal government would unilaterally ban guns on public land, restrictions could spread from park to park and state to state. In addition to North Carolina and Utah, restrictions have already been proposed in parts of New Mexico and Colorado.
That’s why it is more important than ever to behave responsibly when shooting on public land. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t leave behind trash and used targets. The small minority of gun owners who do those things are just giving people an excuse to take away access for others.
Shooters have the same right to use public land as any other American. As long as we clean up after ourselves and observe proper safety precautions – and officials don’t overreact to a few isolated incidents – there is no reason we can’t coexist peacefully with hikers and everyone else.