The Obama Administration apparently thinks it's O.K. for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives to sell automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels, but it is not O.K. for American citizens to target-shoot with their legally-owned firearms on 245 million acres of public lands that they -- not the government -- own.
Yet, if revised regulations proposed by the Obama Administration are adopted by the Bureau of Land Management, gun owners who have historically been able to use public lands for target practice would be barred from potentially millions of acres.
The draft policy would also limit public access to some BLM lands, severely restricting areas deer, elk and bear hunters can use.
Conservationists and hunting groups, however, are lining up in opposition. The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, National Wildlife Foundation, Cabela's and Ducks Unlimited have all filed protests with the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, and have drafted their own alternative regulations.
Officials say the administration is concerned about the potential clash between gun owners and encroaching urban populations who like to use same land for hiking and dog walking. "It's not so much a safety issue. It's a social conflict issue," said Frank Jenks, a BLM natural resource specialist, noting that people "freak out" when they hear shooting on public lands.
Others--including recreational shooters themselves--say target-shooters could be their own worst enemy in creating momentum for restricting their use of public lands.
"I don't think this is so much a Second Amendment issue as a 'trash' issue--at least here in Arizona," one gun-owner wrote on a blog. "People drag all kinds of stuff out into the desert, shoot the heck out of it and drive off. If we did a better job of cleaning up after ourselves, it wouldn't be an issue."