Especially vulnerable are the metal roofs that overhang the shooting benches. The roof at the Kanawha State Forest range is riddled with holes. Some have been patched with duct tape, but dozens of others allow rain to pour down on the firing line.
"The bottom line is that shooters need to be responsible, and to shoot up only targets put on backers," Jezioro said. "And then they need to not shoot up the backers and not shoot through the roofs."
Part of the problem, Jezioro added, is that the ranges aren't supervised. DNR personnel help to maintain them, but shooters are responsible for their own safety and conduct.
Private shooting clubs usually appoint range officers to uphold the rules, but Jezioro said the chronically cash-strapped DNR simply can't afford to employ range officers at facilities that might only get four or five shooters a day.
"There just isn't enough money to do it," he said.
Money to build and maintain the ranges comes from a $5 conservation stamp that all hunting- and fishing-license buyers are required to purchase. Funds from the stamps are earmarked for capital improvements such as ranges and public boat ramps.
A couple of years ago, Jezioro proposed a change that he believes would have solved some of the shooting-range problems.
"I drew up a proposal to the Legislature that would have required shooters at DNR ranges to have hunting licenses in order to use the ranges at no cost," Jezioro explained. "If you didn't have a license, you would have to buy a range permit. Similar arrangements are in place in other states, but for some reason the [National Rifle Association] opposed having it here, so the Legislature dropped it."
He added that money generated from non-hunters' range fees could have allowed popular ranges to have full-time range officers, and could have allowed for better upkeep and maintenance throughout the state's 28-range system.
"I'm convinced that people are willing to pay to have clean, safe places to shoot," he said. "Maybe it's time we looked [for ways to increase funding for public ranges] again."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.