A Colorado gun club is being threatened with eviction after deciding to require its members to join the National Rifle Association.
The Durango Gun Club has decided to become a "100 percent NRA club" so it can be eligible for NRA grants to help improve its shooting ranges, club Secretary-Treasurer Joe Perino
told Denver CBS affiliate KCNC.
The club has been leasing property since 1963 from the city of Durango, but after it decided to require that its 700 members join the NRA or lose their club membership, City Attorney David Smith sent a letter, dated March 13, saying the new policy is "an objectionable use of public land and must be discontinued."
Should the gun club not stop its new policy, it will be required to leave the city's property within the next 30 days. Club leaders must inform the city of its decision by Sunday,
reports The Durango Herald.
In his letter, Smith said the NRA has become "a symbolic agency for relatively extreme political conservatism. There certainly is nothing inherently wrong with this. The problem arises when the leadership of the Durango Gun Club, operating on public property, determines that membership within this conservative political organization should be a condition of membership in the Durango Gun Club or a condition of the right to use the leased facility located on city-owned land."
The club's indoor shooting range is on city-owned land, while its outdoor range is on county land, and La Plata County Manager Joe Kerby said the county is trying to determine if the NRA membership requirement breaks its rules as well.
Club President John Malarsie said the club's lease with the city expired on Feb. 1, 2013, and at that time the city put it on a yearly lease until a new range could be built. Meanwhile, he said the city's decision "implies to us that we are being blackmailed to get us off the property so the City can continue with a planned expansion of their recreational facilities, ie. Mountain bike, bicycle park."
But Mayor Dick White said many citizens have been complaining about the club's new NRA requirement, and council members asked Smith to tell the club its NRA membership requirement was not compatible with the city lease.
"Their motivation was that they can get grants from the NRA — but they are also essentially getting a free grant from the city," said White. "We heard quite a strident outcry from the public that this is simply inappropriate because the NRA has essentially become a political organization, putting the city in the position of making a de facto endorsement."
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