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Boy Scouts denied use of Galt’s firing range due to insurance issues

Certified range officer Dennis Weiss estimates he has taught more than 1,000 Boy Scouts gun safety at the city of Galt-owned firing range on Twin Cities Road.

Some of those have gone on to join local shooting teams. Others have earned their own certifications.

But the 25-year Galt resident and the local Boy Scouts troops can no longer use the range due to emphatic rules outlined in the city’s liability insurance and a recently updated use agreement that reflects that.

The range’s primary user is the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center, which is directly across the street from the range. This is the training academy for all state correctional officers, according to City Manager Jason Behrmann.

It is also used by Galt Police and leased to a number of other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The issue involving the Boy Scouts came up when former Galt Police Lt. Jim Uptegrove retired and City Attorney Steve Rudolph took a look at who was using the range and what insurance covered them.

Under the city’s liability insurance, Rudolph said, the use of the firing range by private groups without their own coverage is “expressly prohibited” unless that group is from a law enforcement agency.

“If you don’t comply with these provisions, you are not covered by our insurance,” Rudolph said at city council last week’s meeting.

Instructor Todd Kimerer founded the Boy Scout program about five years ago when he approached Uptegrove about using the range for Boy Scout events.

“The goal was to give boys who had gone to summer camp and worked on earning a rifle shooting merit badge the chance to complete the badge, which was usually incomplete due to the marksmanship requirements,” Kimerer said.

“Opportunities outside summer camp were left wholly up to the boy and no formal events with the required trained personnel were put on.”

Under a seven-page contract signed in May 2012, the fee for day use was waived for the Soaring Eagle District, which including troops in Galt, Elk Grove, Laguna, Wilton and the Delta.

But the troops in that district were informed this year that they could no longer use the range due to the rewording of that use agreement, according to Kimerer.

There may be an option for the organization to use the range as long as its leaders provide the necessary insurance coverage – but it may be prohibitively expensive, Behrmann said.

It is scheduled to be discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Kimerer, however, said the group has always provided its own insurance through the Boy Scouts of America which met Galt’s requirement – and still meets their requirement – for outside agencies to use the range.

“I am also a member of other groups which provide insurance as long as I am working with youth groups,” he said. “The other issue is that the training we do is far less dangerous than what law enforcement does, and we have had no injuries in the 30 or so events we have put on. Football and soccer both have a higher injury rate.”

The bimonthly events invite boys and girls ages 14 to 21 to the range to give them an opportunity to explore what shooting sports has to offer them in a safe environment.

The national organization requires that NRA certified instructors (1 for every eight shooters) and NRA Certified Range Safety Officers (1 per eight shooters) are used, according to Kimerer.

“At the Galt events we exceed the minimum requirement, and I usually have one instructor for every two to three shooters, as well as more than one Range Safety officer who can watch for safety issues,” he said.

“All of the certified instructors and RSOs have all volunteered their time and money to become trained to assist with these events. Safety is our number one goal.”

Over the years, retired law enforcement officer Frank Shaw estimates he has taught more than 10,000 scouts about gun safety, including many in the Galt area.

“They really like the opportunity to use your range where we can take them away from the general public,” he said at last week’s council meeting.

The closest alternative to Galt’s range is a private shooting range which not only charges participants, but does not allow the scouts to train collectively as they are split into smaller groups, he said.

“The Galt range was perfect as we had total control of the range,” Kimerer said. “There were no outside influences to have to keep an eye on. We were able to establish our own safety protocols and enforce them vigorously. While some of the public ranges will work with us, the ones that will are a significant distance away.

“We are exploring all options at this point, but are hopeful we can come to an agreement that will allow us to continue to serve our youth.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

©2015 Lodi News-Sentinel (Lodi, Calif.)

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