A boom in suburban shooting ranges for the Twin Cities?

This weekend, I traveled to Glen Rose, Texas and the Rough Creek Lodge for the first Bullets and Bourbon event, along with Glenn Reynolds and his wife Helen, Ed Driscoll and his wife Nina, Kevin Williamson, Dana and Chris Loesch, and a number of attendees and other speakers. During the weekend, whenever the fact that I live in the Twin Cities came up, I inevitably got two reactions. The most common — “How can you live through those winters?” — is unanswerable. (Even my wife wonders about that.)

The second, though, was based on a misconception about this particular blue state. Most wondered how difficult it might be to practice my Second Amendment rights in a state governed by leftists. I explained that although Minnesota and the Twin Cities was indeed a liberal bastion increasingly outnumbered by more common-sensical states in the Midwest, gun rights are both popular and enthusiastically exercised. After suffering a defeat on “shall issue” carry permits* more than a decade ago, the Left here in Minnesota has been humbled into near silence on gun control, preferring not to expose their extremism on that point to Minnesotans.

In fact, as my friend Tom Steward reports today for Watchdog.org, shooting ranges are enjoying a boom in the suburbs — pun intended. Far from the usual rugged archetype, these new suburban ranges are going upscale:

Guns are a contentious issue in a lot of places, but more Twin Cities suburbs are pulling the trigger on new indoor shooting ranges available to the public, doubling the number in the last two years. Six of 10 indoor gun ranges in the metro area have been approved since 2013, two in the past three months. The city of Ramsey even OK’d an 18,000 square foot range next to a day care center.

“There’s been a surge in demand for shooting – a lot of new shooters, a lot of new women shooters,” said Andrew Rothman, a firearms instructor and Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance president. “The trend has been toward more ranges, and the indoor ranges are getting nicer. They’re getting more upscale.”

The often massive facilities offer more than target practice. They also feature sales of firearms and ammo, gun safety training, permit-to-carry classes and private shooting lanes. Once they get past noise and safety questions, cities typically treat the necessary permits and approvals as a straightforward business.

“Just like a bowling alley or a golf dome or something to that effect,” said Oak Park Heights city administrator Eric Johnson about Range 082 Indoor Shooting’s recent application. “As long as it’s operated in accordance with the law, I can’t imagine there’s any issues, as long as they’re building to the code and ordinance.”

The first hint of shooting ranges going upscale was from Gander Mountain. They opened a new store in Lakeville a few years ago that featured a small live-fire range and a larger virtual range that includes 300º tactical simulations. Both are a little more expensive than the more traditional ranges, but the price difference is small enough — especially in the winter, when the other facilities’ heating may not be quite enough to cover the bitter cold outside — that many shooters would tend to prefer it.

After establishing the success of that model, it’s no surprise that others would try to compete for that market. The bigger story from Minnesota, though, is that the demand is increasing so fast that it’s become lucrative to open more ranges — and that cities are welcoming them. And why not? We want gun owners to practice and improve their marksmanship and safety skills, and give more opportunities for education. Minnesota has issued more than 200,000 carry permits since shall-issue legislation passed, while none of the drastic predictions of its opponents have even hinted at coming to pass. That makes for a robust market of of responsible gun owners who need practice and continuing education, and the free market and public officials are responding rationally to it.

That is, at least they are responding rationally in Minnesota. This fresh demand likely owes some of its amplitude to the attacks on legal firearm ownership from Barack Obama and his cohorts in Washington DC. That’s also a free-market and political reaction, and it’s one that those politicians had better heed.

*- In Minnesota, we don’t have “concealed carry” permits. A carry permit allows for both concealed and open carry. That’s not true in some other states.

Addendum: I’d like to offer thanks to Nina Yablok and the entire staff of the Bullets & Bourbon event, the gorgeous Rough Creek Lodge, and the sponsors of the event: Kangaroo Carry, Texas Concealed Handgun Association, and Rolling Thunder Cigars.  The picture on the front page is of me, shooting an AR-15 for the first time ever. I’m more of a pistol shooter, but I was getting pretty good at the AR-15 by the end of the weekend. (As Adam Baldwin reminded me on Twitter after I posted this photo, I needed to lean in more.)

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