As a result of Michigan United Conservation Clubs’ recent press releases and blogs, many of you may already know about a recent Appellate Court decision affecting recreational shooting ranges. Thanks to the original work of MUCC and others, the use and historic operation of Michigan’s sport shooting ranges has been legislatively protected since 1989 when the original Sport Shooting Ranges Act (SSRA) was voted into Michigan law.
The need for legislative protection was made necessary as a result of an increasing number of operational conflicts caused by the expansion of residential development into areas which had historically been the site of numerous sport shooting clubs and privately-owned ranges.
While most recognize the purpose and public benefit of the property owner protections represented by local zoning ordinances, these same regulations have always recognized “legal non-conforming uses” whose operations have pre-dated the creation of most of these ordinances.
In spite of this past practice, prior to the adoption of the 1989 and 1994 versions of the SSRA, many local units of government attempted to use zoning laws as a tool for severely restricting use and in some instances, their very existence.
Although the Court case in question specifically relates to a privately-owned commercial shooting range, a judicial decision that contends that the SSRA was not intended to apply to ranges operated for “commercial” purposes creates a significant opportunity for this interpretation to be expanded to include shooting clubs and non-profit conservation-sportsmen’s clubs. Since these clubs must charge members and guests fees in order to sustain their facility’s operation, one can easily see the potential for the abuse of this ruling.
While many may see this Court decision as representing only a limited threat to our northern Michigan shooting facilities, it is important to recognize that if this decision were allowed to stand, a similar challenge to the operation of ranges could be brought forward by a single individual or entity.
If you would like more information on the issue and what MUCC is doing in support of range protection, please click or paste the link to their blog which follows: