City officials in Durango, Colorado warned a local gun club to drop a requirement that members also be part of the National Rifle Association (NRA) or risk losing its facilities.
The Durango Herald reported on Monday that the Durango Gun Club has operated on public land while renting its building from the city for $1 a year. The club’s outdoor shooting range is on city land, while an adjacent outdoor range is on land owned by La Plata County. Under the terms of a separate lease agreement, the county does not charge the club for use of its land.
The club has been operating on a year-to-year lease after its original lease expired in February 2013, but the lease stipulates that the organization may not provide “financial benefits” to outside parties.
Both city and county leaders told the Herald that they have received a number of complaints since the club began requiring NRA membership in December 2013. Leaving the NRA meant a member was giving up their club participation, as well.
“As I am sure you are aware, the NRA has changed rather significantly over the years and has now become, through the choice of the organization, a symbolic agency for relatively extreme political conservatism,” City Attorney David Smith wrote in a letter to the club. “There certainly is nothing inherently wrong with this. The problem arises when the leadership of the Durango Gun Club, operating on public property, determines that membership within this conservative political organization should be a condition of membership in the Durango Gun Club or a condition of the right to use the leased facility located on City-owned land.”
According to the Herald, club treasurer and secretary Joe Perino stated last month that it enacted the NRA membership not as a political statement, but as a way to make it eligible for NRA grants which would be used to improve the conditions of the gun ranges.
In a separate letter, club president John Malarsie told members that the Smith’s correspondence “implies that we are being blackmailed to get us off the property so the City can continue with a planned expansion of their recreational facilities, Ie. (sic) Mountain bike, bicycle park.”
[Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Durango Herald as the Durango Journal.]
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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