Some bad ideas just won’t go away

I’ve lost track how many times the issue of building out a firing range in Minnetrista’s public safety building has come up before the city council. It’s never gone anywhere because residents (according to the city’s community survey) don’t want taxpayer dollars spent on the expensive and ongoing operational and maintenance costs.

There are several conveniently located firing ranges that provide time for public safety personnel to train regularly, as well as providing range time to the general public. Cities can use them when needed without incurring the overhead of running them. These establishments already have the building, ventilation systems, testing procedures, and safety measures in place to provide these services. They are profitable because most sell firearms, ammunition, training and accessories.

Even if Minnetrista were to share a firing range with other nearby cities like Orono or Mound it’s doubtful it would be fully utilized to the point it would make economic sense compared to what Minnetrista pays now, which is just a few hundred dollars a year, paid to a local gun club that accomodates Minnetrista’s officers.

The carrot dangled is always that the initial buildout costs will be covered by the Crime Fund which is a private group willing to fund the original construction. But the real costs, that will continue indefinitely, begin after the construction is completed.

Here are just a few of the ongoing operational and maintenance costs of running a gun range that (provided by a local establishment owner):

  1. Regular blood testing of all employees working in the building (not just in the gun range) is required to test for lead levels.
  2. Periodic hearing tests are required for all employees in the building.
  3. Hazmat disposal of shell casings (they are incredibly heavy) and inspections for lead contamination are required.
  4. Expensive filters for air filtration systems to purify lead contaminated air require regular replacement.
  5. Rounds need to be removed from “bullet trap” walls to prolong their integrity/longevity
  6. Bullet trap walls need to be replaced periodically
  7. Video surveillance is required for liability reasons should an accident occur.
  8. The air inside the gun range cannot be heated/cooled and then recycled. Because of contaminants it must be purged. Ongoing utility costs can be thousands of dollars/month.
  9. Workers compensation costs go up with the liability of working around the public using firearms.
  10. Many gun ranges have had gun accidents as well as assaults and suicides using firearms at their establishments. Staff training is critical to reduce these incidents, as is continual staff supervision.

Before considering this idea, once again, the city needs to remember, once again, that it must be justified economically to Minnetrista taxpayers before proceeding. A complete ROI analysis needs to be completed that would compare what the city spends now on firearms training vs the ongoing operational and maintenance costs that would be associated with a dedicated Minnetrista firing range.

Just because the city has some extra Federal COVID money doesn’t mean they should spend it without looking at long term costs associated with their decision.

The Work Session agenda shows a discussion on the gun range on Monday, September 20, 2021 at city hall from 5:00pm to 6:30pm.

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