‘Sporting Range Good Neighbor Act’ Is Gun Control Disguised as Environmental Regulation, Officials in NY’s Schuyler County Say

The county legislature passed a resolution urging NY’s senate and assembly to reject the bill, which would impose costly new requirements on sporting ranges.
‘Sporting Range Good Neighbor Act’ Is Gun Control Disguised as Environmental Regulation, Officials in NY’s Schuyler County Say
A person aims his pistol at a shooting range in New York on June 23, 2022. (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)
Patricia Tolson

New York’s Schuyler County Legislature has passed a resolution opposing a bill that some county officials warn is a gun control measure disguised as an amendment to an environmental conservation law.

The resolution, introduced for consideration before the Schuyler County Legislature on May 13, declares that the draft bill—called the “Sporting Range Good Neighbor Act"—is a deceptively named measure that seeks to needlessly and unfairly burden people engaged in the sport of skeet and trap shooting.

The document goes on to describe the measure as a “mis-named Act” that is both an “unnecessary and burdensome” effort that will “cause severe hardship on the clubs, members, and schools” who depend on the sport “with no empirical evidence that the mandates and restrictions are necessary.”

The resolution called upon New York’s State Senate and Assembly to reject the bill, should it move out of committee for a floor vote.

The resolution, which cleared the county’s Management and Finance Committee in April, was drafted with the assistance of Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman.

It was at the request of Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin that the County Legislature considered the resolution.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Mr. Getman confirmed that the resolution passed unanimously and is now being sent out “to everyone named therein to receive copies, from the governor on down.”

While packaged as an environmental bill, Mr. Getman argues that the bill would actually impose damaging gun control requirements on the sportsmen and sportswomen of New York and upon the youth that use the facilities for school shooting leagues.

He also said the measure could serve as a backdoor gun control measure in upstate New York because—under the concealed carry bill signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022—people are now required to take a 16-hour classroom and 2-hour live-fire firearm safety training course.

“This bill could close down the very facilities that offer that training,” he said.

‘Another Back-Door Attack on Our Second Amendment’

While the bill has been around since January, Mr. Getman said it wasn’t until the presentation of the resolution on May 13 before the Schuyler County Legislature that the average New Yorker started waking up to what was hidden behind the bill’s innocent sounding name.

Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin, who participated in the interview with Mr. Getman, suggests that the title is part of the plan to get it passed without public awareness or resistance.

“It seems to be another one of those instances where they pass things along quietly in the middle of the night,” she said.

“ ... with innocuous sounding names for the title,” added Mr. Getman, suggesting that “The Sporting Range Good Neighbor Act” sounds less intrusive than “Sporting Range Closure Act,” which he said, “is perhaps more accurate.”

He also said the measure equates to an anti-law enforcement bill.

“The local police agencies don’t have their own training ranges to train the law enforcement officers,” he explained. “They use these gun clubs as the sites to train law enforcement. This would result in having to send police officers and deputy sheriffs out of the county for training, meaning they would not be locally available to respond to emergencies during that training.”

Then there would be the additional cost to the taxpayer of having to send law enforcement personnel to out-of-state training facilities or build facilities themselves.

Ms. Philbin said, “It feels like another back-door attack on our Second Amendment rights under the veil of environmental conservation.”

She also noted that in order to renovate their facilities to comply with the new requirements, shooting ranges and skeet fields would need to truck in tons of dirt to build berms, which would require inspection and approval. They would then need to construct roofs over the top of the backstops required by the new law, to prevent erosion. The implied cost, she said, would be “astronomical and completely unaffordable” for these gun clubs, forcing most, if not all, to close down.

Both Ms. Philbin and Mr. Getman believe that is the purpose of this bill.

Mr. Getman suggested that ever since the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v Bruen decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022, Gov. Hochul has “openly treated the Second Amendment with absolute contempt.” Since that decision, he said, she has “signed off on bill after bill increasing the cost to exercise the Second Amendment and self-defense rights of New Yorkers.”

‘Death By a Thousand Cuts’

From expensive training programs and costly controls on small mom-and-pop stores that happen to sell firearms or ammunition to redundant background checks for purchases of firearms and ammunition, both Ms. Philbin and Mr. Getman believe New York’s governor is trying to “price the Second Amendment and the right to self-defense out of the hands of ordinary New Yorkers.”

Most often hit, Mr. Getman noted, are the poor, persons of color, and women.

The strategy, he suggests, is to keep introducing legislation and count on how expensive it will be to try to defeat the flood of antigun measures in the courts on Constitutional grounds.

“Normal Americans don’t have thousands of millions of dollars to take on the State of New York in state court, then the federal court and appellate court and on to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said, suggesting that the Democrats pushing these bills are counting on people not having the money to fight back.

“These hunting and fishing clubs run on shoestring budgets,” he said. “They’re just groups of ordinary New Yorkers who like to hunt and fish and meet with their friends.”

Ms. Philbin described New York’s increasing gun control laws as “death by a thousand cuts.”

“They keep slicing away a little at a time [so] it’s barely noticeable until it becomes so cumbersome that people just give up on exercising their Second Amendment rights,” she said.

As county clerk, she said she handles pistol permits in her office and has already had dealers and permit holders who have surrendered their licenses because they are tired of having to constantly comply with new and ever-changing laws.

The bill, introduced by Democratic State Sen. Pete Harckham on Jan. 31, adds two new sections to the state’s existing Environmental Conservation Law.

The first update would require shooting ranges and skeet fields to configure their shooting fields to a new layout, purportedly for the “prevention of lead migration.”

The shooting range at every skeet field would be required to be “a minimum of six hundred yards by three hundred yards with the shooting semicircle located in the middle of the long side.”

Those who are unable to comply with this layout due to the area’s restricted size will have to construct and maintain backstops sufficient enough to prevent lead bullets from passing beyond the designated skeet field tract. The new backstops, which must be “constructed of material that effectively captures bullets,” will also have to be covered by a roof that will prevent rain from eroding the new backdrop.

The second update will mandate that “no portion of a skeet field tract shall include a wetland or open water source.”

The bill currently sits in the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

The Epoch Times reached out to State Sen. Pete Harckham for comment.

Patricia Tolson is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers human interest stories, election policies, education, school boards, and parental rights. Ms. Tolson has 20 years of experience in media and has worked for outlets including Yahoo!, U.S. News, and The Tampa Free Press. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]