Gun Clubs and Membership Caps

When we get to wishing a great deal for ourselves, whatever we get soon turns into mere limitation and exclusion.  —George Eliot

LFGC_SHooterYesterday, the Union Leader’s Paul Feely featured a story entitled, Busy gun clubs may have to cap membership. Scott Jenkins, President of the Chester Rod and Gun club had this to say…

It’s one thing to want to grow as fast as you can and not refuse people, but it’s another thing to show up on a Saturday and be turned away because there’s too many people here or there’s a three-hour wait.”

Jenkins is one of the practical and astute club leaders. He clearly recognizes the need and utility of a membership cap and understands it purpose. When a club gets to the point where people are waiting to use the range facilities,  capacity becomes a question directly reflecting membership numbers. And Club leadership needs to be equally astute to those “micro-burst” seasons, that is, those times of year when ranges typically fill up. An easy mistake to make is to judge that seasonal flury as a reaction, rather than an observation.

Safety is paramount to the operations of any club. The number of people a range can safely operate with has to be a foremost consideration,  On the other hand, there are some clubs that have caps for, not so explainable reasons. When I have an opportunity to ask some of those club leaders about their caps, they really cannot effectively defend them. “We want Sportsmen only. No hobby shooters…” one such club leader told me. Shortly thereafter he lamented the difficulties of keeping up with the club maintenance and  the mounting Financial limits as the bulk of the membership body, “is considerably older, you know…” YOU DON’T SAY? When I asked another club leader about his club’s cap, he simply said, “It just is…” When I further asked why, he got a bit testy.  As for rules, a number of clubs have rules that reflect tastes and preferences of a few old farts, but have little to do with safety

As President of the Londonderry Fish & Game Club, a common complaint I hear is that it is difficult to join a club. With a certain number of special sessions or “orientations, requiring a long term member sponsor, Range tests, work requirements and a host of other provisos, some clubs afford themselves the luxury of “moody, curmudgeonly member selection.” I do not begrudge them that, but looking at the big picture they aren’t exactly reaching out the hand of community stewardship in that respect either.

Some clubs have rival factions within. There are the cowboy action shooters, Three-Gun Shooters, IDPA, Sporting Clays, and Tactical shooters…all outside the purview of the once-traditional sportsman the clubs were founded for.  With that, a few egos and voices can be overbearing, As with anything else however, effective management and communication can successfully maintain a peaceful balance.

So if the club you are a member of is entertaining a membership cap, it is important for the logic of the cap to be clearly expressed to the body membership. The cap has to have utility, has to be reasonable and the need for it should be self-evident. Letting a clique of old farts decide the fate of a club based on their mood is neither useful to the club nor to those of us who support Second Amendment Rights. Traditional Sporting club members (like myself) need the non-sporting member shooters and they certainly need us. We live in a time when the range contempt cadre searches constantly for any context to cause us trouble. There is strength in numbers and clubs should not be limiting themselves.