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County Commission Agrees on Gun Club Lease Language

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

The Natrona County Commission on Tuesday tentatively agreed to language in the proposed lease of county land west of Casper  by the Platte River Rod and Gun Club.

The lease has been two years coming.

In November 2012, a stray .50-caliber bullet hit the home of Will and Gina Duel, who with their daughter were not in the house at the time. There was conflicting evidence about whether the bullet came from the range, even though people were shooting ammunition of that size at the time. The Duels said it came from the range. A report from the NRA said it did not.

No charges were filed in the case.

But since then, the club has made improvements on the range and the county has been revising the lease.

The commission is scheduled to approve the lease at its regular meeting on Sept. 2, County Attorney Bill Knight said Wednesday.

At a work session Tuesday, commissioners heard from gun club attorney Patrick Holscher and the Duel’s attorney Ann Rochelle who sparred over language about prohibited ammunition, range safety, insurance and indemnifying the county.

For example, Rochelle wanted the lease to prohibit the use of .50 BMG — .50-caliber Browning Machine Gun — ammunition and ammunition with similar power, otherwise known as “kinetic equivalent.”

The Duels want it and nearby schools want to know that such powerful ammunition will not be used, she said. “This is safety, and this is dangerous stuff, the schools want safety.”

But Holscher said the lease should steer clear of language about similar ammunition with “kinetic equivalents” because other bullets can travel long distances, too.

A prohibition of just .50 BMG ammunition alone is sufficient, Holscher said. “We don’t want to convert the lease into a minor horn book on physics.”

Rochelle wanted, and the commissioners agreed, that the range should have a “bullet containment” barrier.

Holscher objected that such language is unnecessary because the point of the lease is to have a safe range, and that would include such a barrier.

Likewise, the lease should have “short and broad” wording about indemnifying the county instead of trying to detail possible problems with potential county liability.

Commissioner Bill McDowell said he wanted language to indemnify the county “in the strongest possible terms.”

Gina Duel said the new lease resolves most of the problems resulting from the errant bullet two years ago.

“I am fairly happy with what has occurred,” she said. “We have full bullet containment promised by the gun club in the lease.”

She also likes the provision in the lease that it needs to be renewed every five years, and the renewal is not automatic, she said. “Five years from now, this population density is going to change, terminal ranges of ammunition is going to change, and what they’re shooting out there is going to change. So I think the safety needs to be evaluated every few years.”

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