Why did the authorities close the accessible areas of Tonto National Forest to marksmanship? The answers are ugly, and the mainstream media doesn't want to deal with it, preferring instead the "safety" pablum officially circulated. You should ignore of course the fact that no fatality from outdoor marksmanship is known, and that 54 dead bodies were removed from Tonto last year (fairly typical according to officials) related to crimes and non-gun accidents, and of course unreported anywhere (except here). The real reasons for closures concern sex, a corrupted judiciary, law enforcement failures, and the bureaucratic mindset, but what else is new.



by Alan Korwin, Author
The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide

On July 27, the Tonto Forest closure plans hit the editorial page of The Arizona Republic. The paper did a strikingly fair job of describing the problem. Many of the fine points they had discussed with me got ink, and instead of the familiar crush-your-rights fix we're so used to, many positive suggestions were made. Let me agree and recommend:

1. The Forest Service should begin running workshops to teach safe shooting techniques, as the paper recommends. These should be held outdoors in Tonto. In addition to public classes, classes should be offered to school systems statewide, where gun ignorance is rampant and education is desperately needed.

2. Shooting groups of every description should apply to the Forest Service to adopt sites for maintenance and improvements, as the paper recommends. Don't just read this, get your own groups to agree, and make the phone call. Make the Fall and Winter of 2001 an outstanding model of citizen action.

3. Individuals should volunteer to go out en masse and "beautify" your favorite outdoor marksmanship spots, as the paper recommends. Don't just read this, call the Forest Service, offer to volunteer, and insist that they coordinate dates.

4. The Forest Service should prepare packets for gun stores, as the paper recommends, including "where-to-shoot" maps and trash bags for litter pickups. Encourage the stores you use to request packets and pass them out to all their customers.

5. On the long range side, it's time to insist that our legislators support an iron-clad range protection law, which the paper describes as "critical," during the session starting this January. I'll circulate more about that later.

Let me also agree with the paper that, so far, Forest Supervisor Karl Siderits has taken sensible steps to reach out to shooters for strategies, and appears to be acting honorably. Contact him and let him know you support the reasonable, common-sense proposals outlined above and in The Arizona Republic.


Forest Supervisor Karl Siderits
(pronounced SIDE-er-its)
is the top local honcho.
His assistant is Clarice.
602-225-5200, Fax 602-225-5361

The PR guy is James Payne
His direct line: 602-225-5291
his fax line: 602-225-5302
and his email: jwpayne@fs.fed.us

A key agent is Delvin Lopez.
One of the LEOs is Tom Lister.

Tonto National Forest
2324 E. McDowell Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85006

Contact can be made in person
at any Forest Service facility.
Asking questions and talking
politely with the staff can be
a most effective option.


The newspaper says that some small parts of Tonto should probably be closed to shooting. This is a slippery slope, and no selection criteria have ever been publicly addressed.

For the most part, only specious reasons have been put forth for planning to close sections of the Tonto National Forest to the public.

The main one -- so-called danger of outdoor marksmanship -- simply hasn't been evidenced after decades upon decades of use. This perhaps conveniently masks the fact that 54 dead bodies were removed from Tonto last year -- a typical year! -- due to other causes entirely.

This makes Tonto more dangerous annually, in terms of mortality, than all U.S. schools combined. (Despite this, our so-called "news" media will, for the rest of your life, mention 12 schoolkids ruthlessly murdered in Colorado by homicidal maniacs years ago; and the annual dead-body count in Tonto will remain suppressed).

Here are the real problems at Tonto, too ugly to be openly discussed by authorities, none of which will be resolved by proposing land closures. This is the non-sugarcoated version. If bluntness will offend you, please stop reading now.


As long as humanity continues to indulge in vigorous sexual activity, the population will grow, and demands on everything will increase. We have grown fond of gross euphemisms like sprawl, pollution, growth, congestion, shortages, development, erosion, overuse or road rage, when it really boils down to people making lots of babies.

Closing off lands will have zero effect on this root cause, the cause will worsen with time, and closures will simply force migration of the problem to other spots.

When nine people were using the forest in a week, neither marksmanship -- nor anything else -- was an issue, and you couldn't find a shell casing or hear a shot if you were Sherlock Holmes. Today, with a metro population of more than 3 million, of course there is plentiful evidence of constant routine use of the land, by all users.

This should come as no surprise. "Let's close the land because there are too many people," is simply unacceptable.


If two dirt bikers race down a narrow trail in opposite directions, then collide around a blind turn, they can sue the forest because it has the deep pockets. Someone must at last take an unwavering stand against such corrupt abuse of the judiciary, and why not the Forest Service.

The forest of course has no responsibility, but it cries of paralyzing fear of such lawsuits. The forest's own lawyers, the courts, the judges, and the bureaucrats are all complicit in allowing such frivolous lawsuits to proceed on non-existent merits, rather than challenging the suits as wasteful corruption. It is understandable, because for lawyers to do otherwise is to compromise their own income and livelihood. (The lawyer's unspoken creed: "When you sue my client, you're my friend.")

Lawyers should be disbarred for bringing such suits (law actually requires that), but instead they receive support to go to trial or reach obscenely lucrative settlements. This is the corruption of the judiciary, and it is endemic and epidemic.

The Forest Service's capitulation to its own lawyer's threats and fears of such bogus litigation is a malignant festering disease that needs to be rooted out by honest, righteous attorneys.

Land closures will never ever dull the axe of the corrupted judiciary -- which most other segments of society suffer under as well. Take a stand, don't close the land.


In a country where you are free to pursue your interests, some of those interests are going to collide. Horseback riders would love to have the land to themselves, and who can blame them. But so would dirt bikers, marksmen, hikers, picnickers, boaters, floaters, homeowners and most others. Simple tolerance of each other, when the land receives such substantial use from the multitudes, is not an expectable result, and complaints are inevitable.

Total closure would stop the problem on the closed land, but at what a cost; no one has moral authority to lock the public out of its own land in such monolithic proportion. Besides, the conflict of interest would once again merely migrate to another locale. Closing land is not a solution for conflicts of interest.


This, to me, seems the most odious problem. "We don't have enough officers to enforce the rules, so we should punish the innocent with closures, because of the guilty."

Of course the guilty, if they exist in the numbers suggested, would simply ignore such closures, continue to act recklessly or criminally, and simply continue to evade the hopelessly scant enforcement. The newspaper and authorities repeatedly describe gunfire across roads and other outlandish and grossly criminal acts, but never mention any consequences for the perpetrators.

"Do you know how long it takes to arrest and prosecute even one offender?" is a routine Forest Service retort. Expedited processing must be possible, of course, and if there are truly only two law enforcement officers for a zillion square miles (a frequently voiced excuse), get more help, or at least make 700 collars a year (one per day per officer), and make the problem go away.

Constantly touting the numbers of irresponsible land users (though I have not noticed them on my frequent forest visits) clearly implies the authorities have direct personal knowledge of such actions. Failure to act on the knowledge and make collars seems outrageous to me. One must suspect that some of the stories are campfire tales -- isolated cases wildly amplified by constant retelling (quite likely, I think).

If law breakers are truly being witnessed constantly and then ignored, the law enforcement people should be held accountable. Closing land because the gendarmes are eating donuts would be idiotic.


This is the ugliest problem. It is a natural outgrowth of a bloated bureaucracy, and the natural evolution of a government system which is increasingly socialist in nature. It is demonstrably antithetical to a liberty-based free enterprise model, where every effort would be focused on increasing forest use and access.

In the bureaucratic/socialist framework, it's easier to close land than to manage it. It's easier to close land than to enforce the laws. It's far easier to keep people out, and arrest anyone who enters, than to let people in, and only arrest perpetrators of offenses.

And worst of all (and most repugnant), it's easier, and more satisfying and fun, to exercise power over those whose rights you can crush, than to act as a public steward and honorably protect and even expand the public's rights and access to its own property.


Alan Korwin, Author
The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide
Bloomfield Press
"We publish the gun laws"
4848 E. Cactus, #505-440
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
602-494-0679 fax



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