PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Most of the South Dakota House of Representatives wants to help fund a shooting range near Rapid City. But there weren’t enough of them Monday to provide $2.5 million of state funding to the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.
Representative Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, asked rhetorically how many times a bill has to die. House committees had previously twice rejected the proposal.
The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Thursday approved paying $900,000 for the property. GFP Secretary Kevin Robling said Friday that the range would need to be built in phases without the money, and the department would need to raise as much as $9 million from donors to supplement $2.5 million the department already has from federal taxes on firearms and ammo sales. He added that it might not be built at all.
Representative Roger Chase, R-Huron, who’s the bill’s lead sponsor in the House, said Monday the facility would be on a 400-acre tract northeast of Rapid City on Elk Vale Road in Meade County. Chase said he hadn’t visited the site but there would be three shooting areas and would have archery too.
“This is a great opportunity for us in South Dakota,” Chase said. He said it could turn into a tourist destination. The main opponents are some surrounding landowners. “I get that,” he said. He said his family’s farm at the edge of Huron is amid an airport runway, a truck washout and a shooting range — and there are new homes being built there too.
Representative Hugh Bartels, R-Watertown, said a gun range was built in his city three years ago. He said people honor the shooting hours. “It’s surprisingly quiet,” he said. People shoot there from beneath baffles that are thicker as the range distances increase, he said.
Representative Dean Wink, R-Howes, spoke against it. He gave four reasons: 1) Fiscal accountability — Meade County lacks money for 15 bridges. 2) At least four other ranges are in the area. 3) Rainbow Bible Camp is 2.6 miles from the range site. 4) Private property rights of neighbors.
Goodwin said people in the Rapid City area now go into the Black Hills National Forest to shoot. “This is a world-class range we’re going to have,” he said. He added, “This is big industry for us.” The range also could serve Ellsworth Air Force Base and South Dakota National Guard in case of need, the 24-year Army veteran said. “This one here is state of art.”
Representative Taffy Howard, R-Rapid City, said the department already has the statutory authority to do “pretty much” whatever it wants to do. “It’s only about the money,” she said. “It’s a done deal, and they’re breaking ground in a couple months.” The $2.5 million of state funds sought from the Legislature could be spent for other purposes, Howard said.
Chase said the 175-bay site would have eight- to 12-foot berms that would prevent bullets from hitting people. Rep. Sam Marty, R-Prairie City, asked whether GFP would be liable if someone was hit. Chase said he presumed GFP would have an insurance policy on the range and activities there.
The bill had Governor Kristi Noem’s support, and the Senate voted 28-7 for it.
“I really think we should take a strong look at this,” Chase said.