A Colorado gun club avoided eviction this week by agreeing to drop a new requirement that its 700 members join the National Rifle Association.
Just days after being threatened by city officials, John Malarsie, president of the Durango Gun Club in Durango, Colo., announced in a letter the group’s decision to “voluntarily suspend this membership requirement.”
City Manager Ron LeBlanc told the Durango Herald: “We told them either to stop or get evicted – I think that’s pretty clear.”
The gun club is private, but it has for the last 51 years leased -- at no charge -- its indoor shooting range from the city. Its other property, an outdoors shooting range, is leased from La Plata County at a cost of $1 per year.
So when it was reported that the group intended to become “100 percent NRA,” some residents recoiled, claiming that the city would be guilty of “subsidizing political speech,” the Herald reported.
The club was then told on March 13 that it needed to drop the NRA membership requirement or face eviction.
The group had no choice. It nixed the new rule.
Malarsie explained in his letter that it was never the club’s “intention or purpose to promote or advance what you describe as the NRA’s extreme political agenda.”
Rather, the letter adds, the requirement was supposed to help the club qualify for NRA grants that could have then been used to improve group’s facilities.
Malarsie said that the Durango Gun Club “has always strived to provide its members and the community with opportunities for individuals, families, competitive shooters, law enforcement training, 4-H activities, hunter safety, gun safety and proficiency.”
LeBlanc stands by the city’s decision to force the group to drop the NRA requirement, claiming several residents have even contacted him “to express their support of what we did.”
The NRA is powerful, LeBlanc said, but he and his colleagues aren’t afraid.
“Do you think the NRA is going to act out and have some sort of repudiation for city officials? Yes, that’s always a risk – that’s their modus operandi. But we’re not going to back down or not do the right thing because of that,” he said.
The blunt threat to evict the club came as a bit of a shock considering the gun group’s long and happy history with the city, the Herald notes.
“The Durango Gun Club has provided generations of Durangoans with gun-safety lessons. The club allows local law enforcement to practice shooting for free at its ranges. Before news of the club’s NRA requirement broke, Durango Parks & Recreation Director Cathy Metz described the club as a wonderful tenant,” it reported. “And as in many volunteer organizations, a handful of dedicated members do the vast majority of the work – the cleaning, the meetings, the paperwork – that keeps the club running.”
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