The latest issue of the CSSA’s newsletter tells us of the wonderful story of how we shot ourselves in the foot…
COMMENTARY: British Columbia shuts shooting down — Learn from mistakes made there before it’s too late for you!
On April 5, 2017, B.C.’s recreational shooters suffered a huge setback. The Government of British Columbia shut down shooting “within 400 metres of select roads on non-municipal Crown land within the Fraser Valley Regional District.”
Why? Partly because target shooters were too lazy to clean up after themselves and partly because the B.C. government could no longer turn a blind eye to their atrocious and increasingly dangerous behaviour.
Shooters who ignore these new shooting restrictions will face fines of up to $50,000 and six months in jail for a first offence, and as much as a $100,000 fine and a year in jail for subsequent convictions.
At the end of the day, shooters have nobody to blame but themselves. Before we hop up on our high moral horses, we’d best examine our shooting areas on Crown land first. If they look like garbage dumps of spent casings, then we best clean up our act before other provincial governments follow B.C.’s lead and shut down our cherished shooting spots.
For decades, recreational shooters in the lower mainland used old gravel pits on Crown land as makeshift target shooting ranges. The problem is that not all those shooters were responsible. Many were too lazy and irresponsible to clean up after themselves, so these gravel pits became garbage dumps of spent brass and shattered targets of all shapes and sizes. Burned sofas and shot-up appliances littered the ground alongside thousands of spent shell casings.
Some of these supposedly responsible gun owners also shot up road signs and cabins in B.C.’s rural lower mainland, adding to the problem. Some others allegedly went so far as to shoot at people and passing vehicles as though it was their God-given right to do whatever they pleased.
“It’s not unusual for homeowners to find bullet holes in their windows and cars, while hikers, campers, and boaters have reported near misses with target shooters. We look forward to working with the Province to ensure the [Fraser Valley] continues to be a destination of choice for responsible outdoor enthusiasts, while cracking down on those who would choose to abuse and desecrate our wild places,” wrote Jason Lum, chairperson of the Fraser Valley Regional District.
That nobody was killed by such irresponsible gun owners is a miracle. These are the types of gun owners that give us all a bad name. Worse, we cannot claim high moral ground when we abuse public land and endanger our fellow citizens.
Ultimately, the government deemed target shooters are too irresponsible to use Crown land.
Take a look at the map issued by the B.C. government, showing all the areas where recreational shooting is no longer permitted. You will be shocked at the length and breadth of the restrictions.
You can, of course, imagine the righteous indignation and outrage when the B.C. government announced the closure of these Crown lands to shooting.
The reality is government will act when citizens refuse to manage themselves appropriately. When we refuse to police ourselves, we cannot be surprised when government steps in to do it for us.
This decision was literally decades in the making. Many shooters online expressed their surprise that it took this long for the government to shut down recreational shooting in the lower mainland. Many more said they filled garbage bags with spent shells and shattered targets, cans and bottles every time they went shooting. But it was always someone else’s garbage and spent shells, and there was always a new pile each time they went out.
Learn from the mistakes of a generation of B.C. shooters who were too lazy and irresponsible to clean up after themselves. It’s a hard lesson. Think it might sound rude to talk about our fellow shooters this way? It’s not. We must look ourselves square in the mirror and take responsibility for our poor behaviour.
Had these gun owners acted responsibly all these years, they would not have forced the Government of British Columbia to take this drastic step. But they didn’t act responsibly so the B.C. government did so on their behalf.
As an organization that promotes responsible shooting, we regret that the B.C. government was forced to take these measures.
It’s too late for B.C. shooters in greater Vancouver and in the Fraser Valley. They’ve lost the right to shoot on Crown land, and they will never get it back.
But it’s not too late for shooters in the rest of the country to learn from their mistakes. Before your province strips you of the right to shoot on Crown land too, clean up your act.
Grab a few buddies and go clean up the gravel pit where you target practice. Make a family event out of it – a teaching experience for your children.
As responsible gun owners, shooters and outdoor enthusiasts, it is our duty to leave our outdoor areas cleaner than when we arrived. To be sure, responsibility is not just a buzzword.