Some gun-toting folks don’t give a dang, says reformed target shooter – Volunteer public land cleanup Sept. 25

Guns don’t destroy public lands, but reckless people with guns sure can.

No Shooting sign on Mt Lemmon/Ryn Gargulinski

We find evidence of this in parts of Ironwood National Monument, where target shooters have been turning the area’s natural beauty into a garbage dump, according to a news release from Friends of Ironwood Forest.

Located 25 miles northwest of Tucson, the park’s 129,000 acres contain several desert mountain ranges, the biggest collection of Ironwood trees in the Sonoran Desert – and enough debris to choke a google of goats.

“The shootists trample on and damage sensitive soils and vegetation,” the release notes. “They use the saguaro cacti and other species as backstops for their targets. And they leave behind ‘tons’ of shotgun shells and casings – along with the objects of their ‘plinking’ or bullet shots – TVs, computers, household appliances, water heaters, bowling pins, real estate and political signs, stuffed animals, kid’s toys, even a propane gas tank that apparently was shot at in hopes it would explode.”

On top of the mounting trash and debris,” the release adds, “the shooting has become a safety concern. While no one has been hurt, there have been some close calls.”

Any debris is fair game for some target shooters/Ryn Gargulinski

Reformed target shooter speaks out

One Tucson man, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, grew up in the wilds between Willcox and Douglas and admits he was as reckless with a gun as they come.

“We’d shoot up glass bottles, a couple of old, beat-up cars, paint cans filled with paint that would drip down like blood,” he said of his target shooting days. “It’s mostly stuff you find out there.”

While he never shot at a mighty saguaro, he did admit to shooting up barrel cactus. “You couldn’t even tell. I don’t know what it looks like now, but you couldn’t tell at the time.”

Now in his early 50s, our reformed target shooter easily offers several explanations why folks would leave a trail of shot-up debris.

“‘My one shattered bottle isn’t going to wreck the environment,’ is how you think when you’re younger,” he said. “When you’re in your teens or 20s you don’t care. You become more environmentally conscious as you get older.”

Having a galpal also helps, he noted. Once he got married, our shooter man switched from blasting away glass bottles to shooting cola cans he could collect and remove when the shooting fun was done. He said they even had a can crusher in their backyard and would turn in the cans for recycling.

“Women have a big input into this,” he said of becoming environmentally aware. “‘You’re not going to leave that mess,’ they tell you.”

The two have since divorced for reasons beyond tin cans.

One more factor leading to widespread target shooter destruction is perhaps the scariest.

“Some folks with guns just don’t give a damn,” he says.

“The people who shoot up the ‘No Shooting’ signs, leave beer cans everywhere – that’s generally a statement on their entire being, not just their shooting.”

In responsible hands, guns are useful for protection, essential for some hunting. In reckless hands, they can destroy people, lives – and public lands.

Volunteer Cleanup at Ironwood National Monument on National Public Lands Day

Who: Friends of Ironwood Forest, Tucson Audubon Society, the Town of Marana, and the Bureau of Land Management
What: Clean up target shooting site and remove buffelgrass at Ironwood Forest National Monument as part of National Public Lands Day
When: 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 25
Where: Ironwood Forest National Monument – El Cerrito Represso
Register online, get driving directions at or call Friends of Ironwood at 628-2092


What do you think?

Have you seen evidence of reckless target shooting?

Have you been the cause of reckless target shooting?

Have you ever been the target of reckless target shooting?

What’s the worst destruction you’ve seen on public lands?

About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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20 Responses to Some gun-toting folks don’t give a dang, says reformed target shooter – Volunteer public land cleanup Sept. 25

  1. Oakland says:

    I go out shooting, both in door and outdoor ranges. I don’t shoot at any thing i cant pick up ( glass bottles). I always pick up my casings, and other peoples trash. I love the sport, I don’t want to see it taken away, because people cant pick up after them selves.

    • Rynski says:

      hey oakland,
      glad to hear you pick up after your outings – and yes, people who leave messes, from dog doo to chewing gum, from shot-up bottles to the thousands of tires one dude simply threw in the redwood forest, tends to wreck it for everyone.
      litterbugs stink.

  2. andrew farley says:

    I’m shocked that it’s allowed at all. This mentality is something I thought was from long ago. I heard Reddington Pass is a real mess and the one on Manville Road although I live a mile from, I’ve never been shooting there as I have my own target area but I can hear it from my “home on the range”. There was one area at Tangerine road and the power lines that is a real mess also. I plea to all gunowners to stop this insanity. “Mark Evans” is the captcha

    • Rynski says:

      ha! what a cool captcha! i’d even believe it if we still had captchas! hahahahah.
      yes, shooting is allowed on some public lands, with restrictions – for now. as oakland mentioned, if folks keep abusing the shooting zones, the forces that be may just say heck with it altogether.
      a list of such lands is available at:
      how crummy about the myriad messes you’ve seen. what a waste – and a shame.

  3. Alan in Kent WA says:

    I knew a guy in Albuquerque who had a shootin’ range set up in his living room.  Obviously, he wasn’t married.  He did not say whether there was a firing range marshal to enforce a cease fire if someone had to cross on the way to the ceramic plumbing fixtures.

    When I wuz in the Army, we shot at more scorpions than pop up targets on the firing range. 

    • Rynski says:

      hey alan in kent wa –
      a guy with a shootin’ range in his living room? i don’t know whether to laugh or cry – hope he was not living in a crammed packed apartment building – hahahhah.
      that is kind of sick. also hope he was the owner and not just renting….

      • Alan in Kent WA says:

        For real.  He had an AKM (AK 47 with wooden stock, not full auto) and they would shoot in the living room!  They rented the house! 

  4. Shooter McGavin says:

    We had a place we used to go out south of town, (I think it was way out Wilmont, and down an old power line road, but not sure). We always brought our own targets. We either had real targets or something we could bring back, such as tin cans, Phone Books, or plastic bottles. Our backstop was the side of a hill. Before we started, we would go up the hill and scout around to make sure there were no people/animals that might get hit from a stray shot. We always policed our brass (partly because my father reloads but more because it was the right thing to do) and always took home more trash than we brought out. It was instilled in me at an early age, that if we didn’t take care of it, eventually we might loose it. As far as I know, that area is now off limits due to others not respecting the land and leaving their trash. 😦

    • Rynski says:

      hi shooter mcgavin,
      how wonderful you show so much respect and actually leave the place not only the same but BETTER than you found it.
      too bad not all folks follow your lead.

  5. radmax says:

    What an excellent look at an all too often overlooked subject Rynski.
    Sounds eerily familiar too.
    We used to shoot up damn near anything around in my younger days out in the boonies. Same ‘so what’ mentality. I also agree on the older and wiser aspect of it-and the ‘smarter half’ of the guy’s wife’s input.
    I mostly just mess around with my pellet gun these days when I get the hankerin’ to do some can perforation, I don’t feel like driving 200 miles just to squeeze a few off.

    • Rynski says:

      thanks for compliment, radmax – and that  ‘so what’ mentality! eeeek. i just saw a horrible movie where that was the main character’s catch phrase. made me want to say ‘so what’ to the whole movie – yuck.
      think we all had that type of thinking at least once in our lives – thankfully many of us outgrow it, get over it or once again begin to care.

  6. Joel says:

    When I go out and shoot and see all the trash left, it saddens me. It is a poor reflection on all gun owners, and adds to the “redneck with a gun” stereotype. Most gun owners are responsible carriers and it is understood that you clean up your empty casings, targets etc. But a small minority just… don’t care.

  7. Great Article the majority of  unsupervised shooting spots I have seen coast to coast are nothing short of a dump.  This is defiantly something to be addressed with the new firearm laws.  The worst cases are the ones that don’t leave a mess because they shoot any critter that crawls walks, runs or flies and just leaves the remains to be returned to nature.  Sic.

  8. Pat says:

    I will not say that shooters are not litterbugs they are people. People are litter bugs. This group happens to be shooters. There are many shooters who are strict conservationist they leave the land better than they find it. Some people care about the environment others couldn’t be bothered to pickup a dog turd from their living room floor. It is a people issue these people happen to be shooters. I would also venture to bet that a good number of the larger objects were dumped there by non shooters. When presented the target the shooters used it. Of couse since thee are now bullet holes in the object the shooters are blamed.
    Not at all claiming they are being falsely accused but the label of uncaring shooter may need to be revised to uncaring human.

    • Rynski says:

      good point, pat – also brings up what the reformed target shooter said about people who don’t give a dang not caring all aspects of life, not just with their shooting practices.
      also like your line: ‘…others couldn’t be bothered to pickup a dog turd from their living room floor…’
      how sick and sad but i think i’ve actually met a few folks like that (hahah)>

  9. Ben says:

    I’ve got whiplash from the spin. But hey I’m all for your right to write how you choose. I’d like to make a counter point.  The issue is the litter and disrespect for our environment. So people in general are really bad about these things. Nothing to do with being a shooter. I my opinion the most “litersome” segment if I had to define one is the fishing population. Now, that is my view from sitting in my kayak near a river bank – and I don’t feel it’s right to shove blame on them as a group either. From the content of this article I feel that guns are only slightly related, but seem to be the focus of the blame. Personally I have a tarp in my car nearly all the time to collect brass on, I wont claim to get every piece but I try. Anyways, it’s obvious I think, but just to clear things up, I’m a Reformed Non-Shooter, and now proud to be a Shooter. Thank you taking the time to read this. -Ben

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