The following is an update from GunRangeInfo.com on recent developments regarding the gun range proposed by the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. To learn more about the history of this issue, click here to view the original web site.
Update as of 3/7/2016:
In recent months we have become concerned about the increase in the frequency and intensity of shooting on the gun range property. We contacted the Tribe and learned that they had plans to install permanent infrastructure on the gun range property including a large, concrete “bullet catch system.” We Immediately requested a meeting with Tribal representatives to discuss these recent developments.
When we suspended our protest of the gun range last Spring, it was because we received assurances from the Tribe that the range would be infrequently used. They compared the level of use to what “any other property owner in El Dorado County” might do. They also stated that, “shooting hours will be limited. No shooting will be allowed during school or worship hours” and they said that they were “committed to honoring agreements with the schools and church.”
For a while it seemed like the Tribe stuck to these agreements. The level and frequency of shooting, while not ideal, was tolerable. However, the frequency and intensity of shooting has greatly increased in recent months. There have also been incidents of shooting during school hours and on Sundays. We know that there has been frequent CCW training on the property. Most importantly, we were very disappointed to hear about their plans to install a bullet catch system. Our concern was that this new infrastructure makes it seem like the Tribe is trying to build a large, permanent and unregulated range by “baby steps.”
At the end of the day, the increased usage and proximity of this range to the neighbors, schools, church and trail poses huge safety concerns and will have a major impact on the quality of life of all those around it. The professional sound study we commissioned with Bollard Acoustical Consultants last year showed that there is no way to mitigate the sound of a significant number of shooters to a reasonable level.
We understand and respect that this is sovereign land. However, in their press release last April, the Tribe stated “The Tribe very much values its relationship with our neighbors. We’re dedicated to doing what is right and best for the overall community.“
In our meeting with the Tribe, we appealed to them for the following:
- No expansion of the range or installation of more permanent infrastructure such as baffles or a bullet catch system.
- A return to common-sense levels of shooting in terms of frequency and number of shooters.
- Some way to give the neighbors, church and school a “heads-up” when they plan to hold a major or extended shooting event.
- Enforcement of your stated rules prohibiting shooting during school hours and on Sundays.
- Discontinuation of regular CCW training on the property.
- They have also noticed the increase in usage. It was, they said, due to the need to reschedule delayed CCW classes and to an unusual increase in activity by Tribe members after the end of recent sustained rains. Going forward, the Tribe stated they will work on ways to reduce the usage and intensity of shooting on the range to the lower level seen prior to the last few weeks.
- The bullet catch system will be installed as planned. In addition, the Tribe will be installing security cameras and fencing around the property.
- A large section of the motocross track will be removed. The dirt from this project will be used to raise and extend the current earthen berm used for the gun range.
- CCW training on the range will continue but will be reduced back to the once-a-month frequency originally planned for.
- The Tribe will discuss ways to notify neighbors when there will be periods of extended shooting.
- The Tribe said the incidents of shooting outside of stated hours were due to misunderstandings. They promised to enforce the rules around no shooting during school hours (before 3:30 on weekdays) and on Sundays.
- The Tribe requested three months to implement changes to address our concerns.
Previous update from April of 2015:
- On April 17th, the Tribe issued a press release stating that they had decided to alter the project and would develop a smaller gun range that would be open only to Tribal Members and their guests with limited shooting hours. Since this announcement the range has been used approximately once a week, usually for less than one hour at a time.
- On April 22nd, several members of our group met with Tribal representatives. We toured the gun range property and met to further discuss our concerns. At the conclusion of the meeting we asked that the Tribe cancel, move or change the project, or at a minimum, reduce the days and hours when shooting is allowed.
- Following this meeting, we were notified that the Tribal Council had considered our requests and decided they would make no further alterations to their plans and that they would no longer discuss the project with our group as they felt they had made all the changes they were willing to.
- While the change in the project is a significant improvement over the original plan, several concerns remain regarding the size, orientation, noise and safety impacts of the smaller gun range. It is our hope that the Tribe will continue to work with its neighbors and members of the community to resolve these concerns in a way that benefits everyone involved.
On February 24th, 2015, the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians presented their plans to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors for a 29-lane, commercial, outdoor gun range and tactical shoot house to be built on sovereign trust land on the southwest corner of Highway 50 and Shingle Springs Drive. Soon after, a group of neighbors, parents and other community members formed GunRangeInfo.com. Our concerns were the dramatic safety and noise impacts of the proposed gun range and the proximity to the immediate neighbors, the El Dorado Trail, two elementary schools and a church. Our goals were to get the Tribe to cancel the project, change it to an indoor range, or to choose a more appropriate location. From the beginning we made it clear that our concerns revolved only around quality of life and safety issues, and in no way related to gun rights. Many of us are gun enthusiasts and we support the second amendment right to bear arms.
In the weeks following, we worked to get the word out about the issue to the surrounding community and the wider public through our web site, online petition, videos, community meetings, newsletters and numerous media stories. We contacted government officials at all levels and conducted a professional, live-fire sound test in conjunction with Bollard Acoustical Consultants which clearly demonstrated the dramatic noise impact of the proposed project. We also maintained direct communication with the Tribe through Tribal Administrator Ernie Vargas and continually appealed to them to change the project. For several weeks, no changes were made to the proposed gun range as a result of these requests.
A Change in Plans by the Tribe
On April 17th, the Tribe issued a press release stating that they had decided to alter the project and would develop a smaller gun range that would be open only to Tribal Members and their guests with limited shooting hours. The full text of the press release can be viewed here: http://mwne.ws/1GoQY4p. While our group felt this was a positive development, we still had many questions and concerns so we arranged to meet with representatives of the Tribe.
Meeting with the Tribe
On April 22nd, several members of our group met with Tribal representatives. We toured the gun range property and met to further discuss our concerns. The conversation was wide-ranging and covered many issues. We expressed the concerns we have had with the project and asked many questions about the revised plan for the gun range.
The Tribe explained that in making the change to a small, private, Tribal-Members only range, they felt that they had brought the project down to a level no different from any other property owner in El Dorado County. They also emphasized that it is unlikely that the range will see much use and that shooting there will likely be infrequent.
Other points and information provided by the Tribe included:
- The gun range will be for Tribal Members and their guests only. There will be no public, commercial activity at the range.
- The hours when shooting will be allowed will be from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays. No shooting will be allowed on Sundays.
- If any of the local schools, church, or nearby residents have a special activity that will be occurring during normal shooting hours, they can call the Tribe and request that shooting not be allowed on that day and time and the Tribe will work with them to accommodate the request.
- Those using the range must be 21 or older, unless accompanied by an adult.
- The range will stay in its current location with the existing dirt berm (visible from Highway 50). No other significant improvements or changes are planned except for a potential shade structure for the shooters.
- The current size of the berm will allow for no more than 5-6 shooters at a time.
- There will be no official range safety officer.
At the conclusion of the meeting, our group reiterated our request that the Tribe cancel the project, change it to an indoor range, or choose a more appropriate location. We also asked that, if these requests were not possible, the Tribe consider reducing the number of days and hours the range would be open out of consideration to the immediate neighbors, trail users, and the nearby schools and church.
Following this meeting, Tribal Administrator Ernie Vargas let the group know that the Tribal Council had considered our requests and decided they would make no further alterations to their plans and that they would no longer discuss the project with our group as they felt they had made all the changes they were willing to. Our group was disappointed at this cutting-off of communication right at the point where we had started to have an open and constructive dialog.
So, where does this leave us and where do we stand on the new proposal?
First, we want to make it clear that we understand that the land in question is sovereign land. We appreciate the Tribe making an effort to be good neighbors by altering their plans to a much smaller, private gun range. While there are still some remaining concerns, the new plan is a significant improvement over the original proposed 29-lane public commercial gun range.
The Tribe has also stayed true to its statement that the range would not be used frequently. In the eight weeks since our meeting, the range has been used approximately once a week, usually for less than one hour at a time.
There are, however, still some concerns from some members of our group and the wider community. These include:
- The gun range is still oriented so it points at several residences within a few hundred yards. These neighbors are still concerned about noise and the risk of stray bullets and would prefer that further mitigation efforts be undertaken and/or that the range be pointed in a different direction.
- The gun range also points at a section of the El Dorado Trail popular with hikers, bikers and equestrians. These trail enthusiasts are still concerned about the potential for stray bullets as well as the noise impact to the trail. It is hoped that perhaps by further reducing the shooting hours for the range, more people will feel safe to use the trail. Alternatively, creating a system by which people can be notified when shooters are present could improve the situation.
- While the Tribe feels that their use of this shooting range is similar to any other property owner in the County who likes to shoot on their land, it differs in several ways. The size of the shooting area, the large number of Tribal members and guests who could potentially make use of it, and the number of days and hours available for shooting could make this range have much more impact on the surrounding community than a “typical” property owner who occasionally shoots on his land. The fact that the range is on sovereign land also raises concerns about whether those using it will be accountable to local laws and subject to the jurisdiction of local law enforcement.
- There is no written agreement or commitment from the Tribe that the gun range will remain a private, Tribal members-only range. There remains the possibility that the project could revert to a larger, public range in the future.
- While we appreciate that the Tribe changed their plans in this circumstance, we are aware that they have several applications on file to put more purchased land into trust, effectively removing it from local tax rolls, laws and zoning ordinances. We ask that the Tribe will make it a top priority to be good neighbors and consider the impact of any future projects on the surrounding community.
It is our hope that the Tribe will continue to work with its neighbors and members of the community to resolve these concerns in a way that benefits everyone involved. Going forward, our group will continue to monitor the gun range and will keep the community informed of any new developments.
Stay Involved and Stay Informed
If you are interested in quality of life issues in Shingle Springs and El Dorado County, we encourage you to get involved with the Shingle Springs Community Alliance and Save Our County. Both organizations are working hard to help maintain the quality of life in our area. These organizations will also be monitoring and sharing with the community the proposals for trust land use.
Thank you for your support and interest in this issue. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.