I read an article today in TNT. Thanks to Jeffery Mayor for the article. The article is about the Forest Service putting an outright ban on gun use in a small area of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Here is an excerpt from the ban:
“We have a serious public safety concern,” said Snoqualmie District Ranger Jim Franzel. “If we don’t do something immediately, someone will get hurt. We are closing the smallest land area possible to prevent an injury and provide for public safety.” The target shooting closure area encompasses concentrated recreation uses with multiple roads, campgrounds, trailheads and picnic areas. Franzel said that the local geography doesn’t provide for natural target shooting backstops, so target shooters often use trees and vegetation as backstops, not realizing there may be a trailhead or people recreating within range.” Source
While some gun rights advocates may be raising their blood pressure and perhaps even stomping their feet in anger over this ban, it serves as an extremely over-due acknowledgement by the Forest Service that the current gun use regulations in the National Forests are out of touch with reality and that the Forest Service needs to acknowledge the kinds of visitors to an area. Typically the Forest Service has too few people to enforce firearms use laws, and that is made worse by what appears to be a vast culture of indifference to the problems associated with nearly unrestricted firearm use where there are numbers of visitors.
I spend a lot of time on and near Forest Service roads in Greenwater. I hike and ride my bicycle throughout the area on roadways including UFSF 70, UFSF 73, UFSF 74, as well as other roadways. On all of these roads during nearly any warm weather day, there are up to hundreds of people within a few miles of each other, each shooting up a storm, and typically doing so with absolutely no regard to the dangers they present to everyone around them. I've seen trees shot in half. I've seen people bring in everything from beer bottles, to old appliances, to propane bottles to abandoned motor vehicles, to a plastic statue of Santa Claus. Target shooters will typically put these near the river and shoot them, with nothing as a safe backdrop. Virtually every time they will leave the area with their bullet shells and bullet strewn trash left behind.
I have seen people “target shooting” with the head of trails leading into Mt Rainier National Park, immediately behind their “target.” No back drop, and not the slightest care or evidently comprehension that others use the area. I remember a time recently when I was resting by the West fork of the White River, after a long uphill bike ride. I was catching my breath and enjoying the view when someone walked to within about 20 yards of me and yelled to me: “Oh, it’s a good thing I decided to walk up here. Me and my buddies are going to shoot across the river by where you are - at some random trees. No one could see you.” I was as obvious as anyone at the side of the road in the open, and wearing a bright white bike helmet and an orange jacket. I left the area immediately.
During this time of year, on any given day, Greenwater endures more firearm use than the most crime ridden areas in any city on planet Earth, except perhaps Baghdad. It is appalling. It is highly dangerous, and it mostly takes place on and near Forest Service roadways.
As a reminder to all: “The Code of Federal Regulations prohibits discharging firearms within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area. Violators can be fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned up to six months in jail. Signs are posted marking closed areas. Visitors can get maps at Snoqualmie Ranger District Office in North Bend that show where target shooting is prohibited. Map is also online here.
If you are in the Greenwater area and see someone shooting recklessly, report them. Call 911 and note the location you saw them, the time of day, and how many shots you saw or heard fired. Get a license number, if possible. Take a photo, if possible and note that when you call. Even though it is more than likely no one will come to investigate, your call will help to notify the county of firearm use in the area.
Perhaps, some day in the dim and distant future, the Forest Service may ban firearm use around Greenwater. Clearly they have the means to do so if they deem it necessary. Of course even if they do, they still won’t have enough people around to enforce it. But if enough calls come in, maybe some day they will.