Students get valuable civics lesson in fighting Lakewood Ranch gun range

March 16, 2013 

The students from Center Montessori School must be disappointed that their bid to halt the establishment of Ancient Oak Gun Club failed this week when a county hearing officer gave preliminary approval for the shooting range project in Lakewood Ranch. A final decision is expected next week.

We hope the youngsters learned a valuable lesson about civic engagement, especially the bus load of kids who attended one of the earlier hearings. The earlier citizens get a taste of government, they'll gain an understanding of how the system works and how to influence outcomes -- and how to keep officials accountable and honest. That latter point is even more important since this is Sunshine Week in Florida and the nation, with its focus on good government, transparency and public records open to all citizens.

Kudos to hearing officer Lori Dorman for giving the students the identical respect and attention as all the adults in the room. That's a critical takeaway for the youngsters, who now know their voices will be heard and considered.

And kudos to club builder Schroeder-Manatee Ranch for conducting scientific tests to demonstrate the range "does not endanger the public health, safety or general welfare," as Dorman stated in the county's notice of intent to approve a permit.

The outdoor firing range will only be for trap and skeet shooting with very fine shot which only travels a short distance, certainly not the thousands of yards to the school and its nature lab or other neighbors. And the sound will be faint from that distance.

Take heart, students. You fought the good fight. And remember President Abraham Lincoln's famous statement in the Gettysburg Address in 1863 during the Civil War -- "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

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