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Public Safety Committee members Jason LaForest, Chairman Benjamin Lamb and Joshua Moran support maintaining the 60-year-old shooting range for use by the public.

Resolution Endorsing Gun Range Goes to North Adams City Council

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Safety Committee on Monday approved forwarding a resolution in favor of the continued public use of the city's shooting range to the City Council.
The draft resolution strongly urges the administration to work with the permitted users of the range to find a solution to the liability and insurance issues that prompted the decision to close public access to the facility effective Jan. 1, 2019.  
"We don't have the direct yea or nay approval on this but we're hoping to make a case that this is something the administration has to review a bit more before they just make a decision to close it," said Chairman Benjamin Lamb at Monday's meeting. Lamb developed the resolution based on notes he took during the committee's several meetings about the gun range. 
The resolution states the City Council, "Strongly disagrees with the proposed decision to close the range to all public use, as it would eliminate a public resource of importance to a significant portion of the North Adams community."
Mayor Thomas Bernard made the decision to close the range to all but Police Department use after being informed the city's insurer, the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, would not cover the range after learning how it was being used.
MIIA had apparently not known that the range had been in public use but agreed to continue coverage to the end of the year. 
The range had been established by a sportsmen's club and was acquired along with some other parcels of land on Pattison Road in the 1960s. Some users had approached the city about the regulations and improving the condition of the range, which also brought out neighbors who cited concerns about noise and possible pollution. 
The Public Safety Committee had held several meetings to discuss its operations and felt blindsided by the abrupt decision in June to close it. Councilors also questioned the cost being cited for additional insurance to cover the range.
The resolution calls for the administration to work with the permitted users to find "appropriate insurance and coordinate any needed financial action to support said insurance cost."
Committee member Jason LaForest said the quotes they had been provided at the last meeting by an insurance agent was "not significant in terms of cost" and thought it could be included in the budget. He was concerned about one clause in the resolution that refers to the permitted users being willing to support it financially.
"I don't the users should necessarily be responsible for the cost of procuring insurance for the gun range ... if it's $700, $1,000, I think the city should just pay it, frankly," LaForest said. "We have a budget of $42 million. Adding $700 to cover a rider for the gun range seems, to me, reasonable." 
Lamb said he'd put that clause in because the council cannot add to the budget. "They're going to have to work together to get there," he said. 
The resolution also references the 2nd Amendment right of citizens to bear arms and states the range provides a safe venue for practice shooting and sighting of guns that might otherwise have to happen in other wooded or public spaces. The range's users, it states, "have proven to be safe, conscientious, and caring gun owners and users" who have contributed "their own time and energy to keep the range as nice as possible."
The committee reviewed the language in the resolution and made several changes, replacing "members" in several places with "permitted gate keyholders" to avoid portraying the range's users as part of a club. Gun-range users are required to pay for a yearly permit through the Police Department and are given a key allowing them to enter through the locked gate. There had been concern over the number of keys and duplicates that might be floating around but the Police Department has begun switching out the lock, requiring users to apply to get a new key. 
The city currently has 82 permitted keyholders, an increase from about 60 at the beginning of the year. Lamb wasn't sure if the new permits had been issued after the publicized discussions about the range or after the mayor's announcement it would close. 
Although the amended resolution is on the agenda for Tuesday's City Council meeting, it is expected to be postponed until October.

Tags: public safety committee,   shooting range,   

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