North Adams City Council pushes back on plan to close shooting range to public

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NORTH ADAMS — The City Council has joined the campaign to save the city's public shooting range.

The council on Tuesday unanimously supported a nonbinding resolution imploring Mayor Thomas Bernard to reconsider his decision to discontinue public use of the range on Pattison Road.

"[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," the resolution states.

During a review of the rules and regulation of the facility earlier this year, officials learned that the city's insurer was unaware that the range was open to the public. The outdoor range has operated at that location for at least five decades.

The insurer, the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Agency, informed the city that it would not cover the shooting range for public use, effective July 1, 2019.

In response, the mayor announced in June he would close the range for public use at the end of the year. Police will continue to use to the range for training and target practice.

"I understand that the decision to close the range may be unwelcome to some and applauded by others," Bernard wrote in his letter to the City Council.

Last month, the City Council's Public Safety Committee urged the mayor's office to seek out a new insurance policy — and work with gun owners to find a way to pay for it — rather than close the shooting range when it is no longer covered under the city's plan next year. The committee also unanimously supported the nonbinding resolution that was approved by the council.

Bernard was not present at Tuesday's meeting and has not publicly voiced any willingness to drop his plans to close the range.

The range has about 82 permitted users, which the resolution describes as "safe, conscientious, and caring gun owners." The use of the range by the public benefits the community, the proposal argues, because it provides a designated space for target practice and sighting.

Residents have explored alternative options for insurance, providing a quote of $700 annually to the City Council and mayor's office.

City resident Robert Lyons noted that several residents have expressed a willingness to pay an additional $20 annual fee, to both cover the additional insurance premium and a new gate lock and keys every year. The range currently charges an annual fee of $20 for North Adams residents and $25 for nonresidents.

Councilor Jason LaForest noted that insurance coverage was the only issue cited by Bernard.

"It's important to note that if there is anther valid reason to close the range, it was never provided to the council or committee," LaForest said. "So I will continue to support this resolution, albeit nonbinding."

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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