Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 11, 2014

MI Supreme Court Interprets Definition of “Sport Shooting Range”

In 1993, Addison Township approved Barnhart’s request to build a shooting range on his property. The Township supervisor stated that Barnhart’s request was granted on that basis that only Barnhart and his family would use the range. Barnhart stated that he used the range “for competition and other recreational shooting involving family in friends” throughout 1993 and 1994, and that one person even paid him for a class. Barnhart further admitted that he began teaching firearm lessons in the following years. In 2005, the Township issued Barnhart a “misdemeanor citation for operating the shooting range without a zoning compliance permit.”

The Sport Shooting Range Act (SSRA) was enacted in 1989, and designed to provide shooting range owners with various types of immunity, and in 1994 was amended to expand those protections. In order for a shooting range to fall within the expanded scope of the amendment, the range needed to be a “sport shooting range,” exist at the time of the 1994 SSRA amendment, and also comply with all generally accepted operation practices. The court found that the legislature’s definition of “sport shooting range” concerned the design and operation of a range, and not the “individual shooters’ intentions for using the shooting range.” First, the court stated that it was irrelevant whether Barnhart was receiving a profit from the range in order to determine its design and operation. Next, the court addressed whether Barnhart’s range was afforded the expanded scope of protection under the amendment. The court found that the range met the first requirement because it was undisputed that the range existed prior to the enactment of the statute. The court then found that there was more evidence demonstrating that the rang was used as a sport shooting range, such as competitions and shooting classes, that any evidence to the contrary was insufficient to conclude that the “range ceased to be designed and operated for sport shooting purposes.” Lastly, the court found that the range was in compliance with all of the generally accepted operation practices despite its failure to meet several requirements in the National Rifle Association’s Manual.

The court held that in order for the amendment to apply to a shooting range that “it must (1) be a sport shooting range that also existed as a sport shooting range as of July 5, 1994, and (2) the sport shooting range must operate in compliance with the generally accepted operation practices.”

Addison Township v. Barnhart, 2014 WL 1303081 (MI 4/1/2014)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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