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Poisonous Pastime

Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Poisonous Pastime

The Health Risks of Shooting Range and Lead to Children, Families, and the Environment

View and Download the report here: Poisonous Pastime

The American gun industry is in big trouble. Hunting is fading as a sport. Guns are seen by most of the general public as either weapons of crime or dangerous toys owned only by a shrinking minority of Americans. As a result, the civilian firearms market is becoming smaller and more concentrated.

The gun industry is keenly aware that it faces eventual extinction unless it can break out of this fatal cycle of fewer and fewer people owning more and more guns. The industry and its satellite organizations—the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), in particular—have developed a long-range “survival” strategy to pump up gun sales. One arm of this survival strategy—selling lethality, or killing power—is described in a number of Violence Policy Center books and reports. But a hitherto less well-documented arm of the industry strategy is that of building more shooting ranges to draw new customers—especially women and children—into what it euphemistically calls the “shooting sports.” (Appendix A documents the means by which the industry is using tax dollars and co-opted federal officials to help underwrite this strategy.)

As is so often the case, what is good for the gun industry is bad for the general public. Thus, as a Michigan hunter safety coordinator told a national shooting range symposium in 1990, shooting ranges are “like a waste disposal facility.” The attitude most people have toward shooting ranges is “not in their neighborhood and definitely not next door.”

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