Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Representative William Owens called on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to meet with the Massena Rod and Gun Club's Board of Directors and reach an agreement so that federal training does not prevent local members from enjoying the club's gun ranges. In a personal letter to CBP Acting Commissioner David Aguilar and ICE Director John Morton, Schumer and Owens stressed the need for CBP and ICE field office heads in Massena to coordinate best practices with the gun club in order to ensure that their officers use the range for training and qualification sessions without barring dues-paying members from using the club for unnecessarily long stretches of time. Schumer and Owens stressed that communication, coordination and advance notice would allow federal agents and local members to mutually reap the benefits of the gun club.
"Having more federal law enforcement officers protecting our border is a good thing for New York and the North Country, but it also presents new challenges like this one. I will always advocate for well-trained law enforcement, but when the owners and the board of the Massena Gun Club called and asked for our help to sort out an agreement that allows our federal agents access to train, while still permitting the thousands of dues-paying local gun club members time to utilize the range, I was pleased to lend a helping hand," said Senator Schumer. "The first step is to get both the Massena Rod and Gun Club and federal law enforcement officials from the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to sit at the table to hammer out a real schedule. I am confident they can forge an agreement that allows more regular and adequate access for club members, while also setting aside enough time for federal training needs. As New Yorkers in the North Country and law enforcement officials take aim at this problem, I have every confidence they will hit the target in a way that allows shooting sportsmen time to use their club."
"As with any other border issue, it is absolutely critical to strike a balance between security and economic development, and I believe all parties involved have these interests at heart," said Owens. "I would like to thank Senator Schumer for his action on this issue and I look forward to working with border officials and the Massena Rod and Gun Club to ensure that agents can continue their training while local business owners maintain their contribution to the region's economic recovery."
After being contacted by the owners and board of the Massena Rod and Gun Club, Schumer and Owens agreed to work to facilitate a win-win solution. The representatives highlighted a need for the area's 200 highly-trained federal agents to not displace the other 1,200 gun club members, who range from veteran marksmen, frequent hunters and novices. Schumer and Owens believe that a more mutually beneficial process can be detailed, which would allow CBP and ICE agents in Massena to take full advantage of the Massena Rod and Gun Club's four shooting ranges, without blocking other members from sharing the facilities. However, this issue will only be resolved when CBP and ICE officials meet with the gun club's top management as soon as possible to implement better methods of communication and coordination between the two parties, according to the representatives.
Schumer and Owens pointed out that CBP and ICE agents' increasing use of the Massena Rod and Gun Club's shooting ranges for qualification courses, trainings and certifications have frustrated the club's other members. Schumer and Owens specifically took issue with the policy that unnecessarily prevents shooting sportsmen from sharing the ranges with law enforcement agents during certain training exercises. Both members of congress recognize the value of the club to law enforcement due to its first-rate facilities and convenient location near the ICE Field Office in Massena, NY.
The text of the letter signed by Senator Schumer and Representative Owens appears below:
Dear Commissioner Aguilar and Director Morton,
We write to you at the request of an important organization in the Northern New York, the Massena Rod and Gun Club. As Representatives of Northern New York, we greatly appreciate everything you and your agents do to keep us safe and protect our borders. Successfully increasing the personnel and resources dedicated to Northern Border security in New York is one of the prime issues we have worked on. As a unexpected consequence of this progress, one of the important challenges your agencies face is achieving security in a manner that is not overly burdensome to the communities in which your agents reside. It is in this regard that we write to you in order to respectfully ask you to work with the Massena Rod and Gun Club to use their facilities in a manner that is not overly burdensome to the club.
The Massena Rod and Gun Club is an important resource to many North Country residents who enjoy sport shooting and the great outdoors. It provides a variety of activities including shooting ranges, archery ranges, and even snowmobile trails. The club has many members -- from the seasoned shooter, to the avid hunter preparing for the season, to the beginner looking to learn about this popular sport. Additionally, local and federal law enforcement officials utilize the club as it is in a prime location near the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Office in Massena, NY, and is the only facility of its kind for miles.
It was recently brought to our attention by the board of the club that, over the years, the Massena Rod and Gun Club has seen higher and higher use of its shooting ranges by ICE and CBP agents for the agents' qualification courses, trainings, and certifications. We have received numerous inquiries informing me that when your agents are using this facility, they are often doing so in a manner that is unnecessarily preventing other individuals in the area to use and enjoy this facility. These situations can often be prevented with simple communication, coordination, and advance notice. While it is undoubtedly important that your agents stay practiced and prepared, it is also important that the rest of the paying members of the club be able to use the club's facility that they also pay for.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to working with you in any way that is needed to help remedy this situation.