A rusted, bullet-riddled refrigerator was left right in the middle of the private, county-zoned shooting range my local club uses for events. Not one, but two cars in similar condition were there as well. In the corner rotted a trash heap taller than a man and some 30 paces deep.
Having recently moved to this dump/shooting range, our club members had to clean it up. Despite the warts, the location, available space and super-low overhead costs made it too good to pass up. However, you can rest assured the trespassing, half-literate plinker-slobs who created the mess weren't there to help clean it up.
Part of the problem was the property owners had used it as their personal dump for 20 years and the folks who originally zoned the facility as a shooting range didn't do anything about it. It was a textbook case of "broken windows theory" in action.
If that isn't bad enough consider this. One hundred yards up the road a landscaper built a meticulously groomed golf driving range. Not one junk pile ever. Consider what impression of gun owners and golfers the hundreds of commuters who travel that state highway road every day took away from that scene.
While this may be an extreme case, it is by no means an isolated incident. Our own industry periodicals (Shooting Industry, Shot Business, etc.) have reported that promoting ranges and shooting activity is the only viable long-term choice to retaining private gun ownership, yet under promoted, sloppy, even unsafe, range conditions are wide spread.
Sound harsh? Compare the conditions of your local golf course or bowling alley to your range. Note the difference between the atmosphere (appearance, signage, etc.), location, and promotion (number of ads and stories appearing in local media.)
It's endemic throughout the shooting world, and the fault lies primarily within our own industry. Gun people like to blame their woes on the "anti-gun media" and politicians. However, I'm convinced that negative media and political attention are merely symptoms of the real problems.
When someone already has made the choice to be gun owner and then finds more joy in *not* using their firearm more than once a year that is, collectively, our own fault.
When a gun owner chooses to trespass and vandalize private property, and nobody does anything to curb or plain ridicule such activity that is, collectively, our own fault. Sure, such an individual is rare but all it takes is one bad apple.
When highly skilled shooters do make the effort to participate and even run the events that prove their skill, but the industry largely ignores their hard work and contributions that is, collectively, our own fault.
When the man and woman on the street is unable to make a distinction between these two classes of gun owner and writes them both off that is, collectively, our own fault.
This is the sad reality, but it is also the hope. Internal problems can be remedied regardless of any external forces. The solution is to take full control of our own destiny by better managing our efforts. Smooth Operations, rapid Administration, and aggressive Promotion will fix all this and more. And this is something we can do for ourselves.