AG backs denial of gun range’s business license renewal

Gun Rights

The denial of a business license renewal for Sportsland Shooting Range in Dededo over zoning and safety concerns was proper, according to Attorney General Douglas Moylan.

An opinion issued Thursday by the attorney general upheld the actions of the Department of Land Management in refusing to OK the operation of Sportsland range, which sits on agriculturally zoned land. Though the government issued an indefinite, conditional-use permit for the range in 1982, the area where the range sits has since become more densely populated and not all the conditions of the permit have been met, according to the attorney general.

“Given the substantial increase of residential housing in the surrounding areas from the time of the original application, it is reasonably foreseeable that a curious young child or teenager from one of the nearby homes could try to access the location to view the shooting on the range and be accidentally killed by gunfire,” the attorney general stated in the opinion.

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A review of the original conditional-use permit for the range from 1982 reveals that the range, which opened under a different owner from the current operator, John Sablan, had just one house located nearby when the permit was issued.

A 6-foot barbed-wire fence that was supposed to be built around the property as a condition of the permit was not there and may never have been built at all, according to Moylan’s opinion. There also was no evidence that the property was compliant with the standards of the National Rifle Association. Finally, though range owner Sablan had obtained a permit for a “shooting gallery” from the Guam Police Department, the permit did not involve any safety inspection of the property.

Inspections that were supposed to take place as a requirement of the business license for the range did not occur, partly because the 2021-2022 application for renewal was filled out online and auto-renewed, the attorney general stated in the opinion. Sportsland was inactive for nearly two decades starting in 1999, and the auto-renewal occurred under a newly issued business license.

Those unmet permit conditions are cause for great concern, the AG stated in the opinion, given the large amount of development adjacent to the range in recent years and especially the nearby location of Finegayan Elementary School. Finegayan is less than a half-mile from the range, Moylan’s opinion states, well within the range of a stray .223-caliber round fired from an AR-15 rifle.

Stray rounds reported by nearby residents — which have been attributed to illegal hunters by Sportsland’s owners — also are a serious cause for concern, Moylan said.

Moylan concluded that Land Management had acted properly in not signing off on the business license renewal for Sportsland.

The AG proposed a temporary solution to the range’s shutdown, which would involve Sportsland receiving a single, yearlong renewal of its license in return for allowing only pistols to be used at the range and for safety conditions mandated by the zoning permit to be implemented.

Sportsland was directed either to sign off on the proposed agreement or to seek relief from the Guam Land Use Commission, the CHamoru Land Trust Commission, or the Legislature to find a more isolated parcel of land.

Guam law encourages the avoidance of lawsuits through settlement, the opinion stated, though Sportsland’s owners remain within their right to seek a resolution in the courts.

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