Civilian Gun Club Sues Fort Devens for Violating Constitutional Rights

Fort Devens Rifle & Pistol Club members engaging popup targets with rifles on Fort Devens’ Hotel Range. (Photo courtesy of the Fort Devens Rifle & Pistol Club).
Fort Devens Rifle & Pistol Club members engaging popup targets with rifles on Fort Devens’ Hotel Range. (Photo courtesy of the Fort Devens Rifle & Pistol Club).

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- A small civilian rifle club located just 50 miles northwest of Boston is suing nearby Fort Devens for violating federal law granting them access to military rifle ranges at reasonable rates, as well as violating their members’ constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law.

Ultimately, the gun club says the Biden-Harris administration is responsible.

A little-known section of the U.S. code requires the Army to make rifle and pistol ranges available for civilian use as long as it does not interfere with military training, and it prohibits officials from charging exorbitant fees for range access. Another federal statute requires the Army to provide logistical support to the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The Fort Devens Rifle & Pistol Club, Inc., is an affiliate of both the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the National Rifle Association.

For decades prior to the 2020 election, club members had been using a wide array of rifle and pistol ranges at Fort Devens free of charge. Club members supplied their own targets, ammunition, Range Safety Officers and other supplies. They even policed their own brass. Most of the members are veterans, so they are intimately familiar with range safety protocols and other best practices. To be clear, in terms of taxpayer dollars, the club cost the Fort very little.

Just days after the 2020 election, the club was notified in writing that they would have to start paying a minimum of $250 per range and that the fees would increase based on the total number of shooters.

“This did not start until three days after Biden got into office. We found that very interesting,” said Jim Gettens, treasurer of the Fort Devens Rifle & Pistol Club, Inc. “I don’t think they ever would have pulled this under President Trump’s administration. If we had contacted President Trump about this, I think it would have gone away ASAP.”

FOIA

The club attempted to perform some due diligence. Gettens, as club treasurer, sent a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Lt. Col. Lindsey E. Halter, then-Fort Devens’ Installation Commander, seeking to confirm how much the club’s range usage actually cost the Fort.

Among the document requests sought in the FOIA were:

  • All records showing the itemized costs for materials and supplies incurred by U.S. Army Garrison Fort Devens, specifically attributable to the Ft. Devens Rifle & Pistol Club, Inc., to make the following rifle or pistol ranges available to that Club on the range dates it scheduled during the calendar year 2020.
  • Records showing the total dollar amount collected during the calendar year 2020 by U.S. Army Garrison Fort Devens in charges or fees imposed on non-Department of Defense entities, including but not limited to law enforcement agencies, other agencies, corporations, and other persons, for use of its rifle and pistol ranges during 2020.

Club members have seen numerous law enforcement agencies – local, state, and federal – using Fort Devens’ range facilities. They suspect the Fort has created a lucrative cottage industry by charging law enforcement agencies – and ultimately taxpayers – for range access.

The FOIA was sent up the chain of command from Fort Devens to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then to Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Along the way, the club was told the FOIA would cost $1,056 to process, which Gettens paid by check.

“Almost six months later, I called the FOIA officer since our $1,056 check would go stale after six months,” Getten said Monday. “They quickly cashed it and then they stiffed us. We never got a single document back from our FOIA request. They just took our money.”

Litigation

In August, after all attempts to remediate the problem failed, Richard Chambers, one of the few Second Amendment attorneys in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts, filed suit against Fort Devens in federal court on the club’s behalf.

“The Second Amendment is a fundamental right, and the military should not be dictating policy when it’s guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution as well as by an act of Congress,” Chambers said Monday.

The lawsuit, Ft. Devens Rifle & Pistol Club, Inc. v. U.S. Army Garrison Fort Devens, points out that the rifle club began as an association in the early 1990s and was incorporated in 1996.

Prior to 9/11, the club hosted many shooting events, including the Northeast High Power League Rifle matches and the annual Colt Cup Match.

After the terrorist attacks, the Fort began limiting the number of privately owned vehicles permitted on post and refused to grant the club access on weekends, which killed the matches and severely reduced club membership. Today, club members are only allowed to shoot twice a month, usually Tuesday mornings – one day for rifles, one for pistols.

The four-count lawsuit accuses Fort Devens of violating 10 U.S.C § 7409 by attempting to charge unreasonable and exorbitant range fees; violating 36 U.S.C § 40727 by failing to provide logistical support to a certified affiliate of the Civilian Marksmanship Program; violating 5 U.S.C. § 552 by failing to provide documents sought in a FOIA request, as well as violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights of due process and equal protection and treatment under the law.

The lawsuit seeks a written declaration from the court that the club members’ statutory and constitutional rights were violated. It also seeks an order from the court directing the Fort to allow the club to use its ranges in accordance with past practices, as well as reasonable attorney fees and costs.

Jazika Levario, a civilian public affairs officer at Fort Devens, agreed to forward a copy of the club’s federal complaint to the Fort’s command group to see if anyone was willing to discuss the lawsuit. No one was.

“We are unable to make a comment at this time,” Levario said in a subsequent email.

The Fort Devens Rifle & Pistol Club has established a GiveSendGo account, which has raised $845 of its $50,000 goal.

“They need help with fundraising,” said Chambers, the club’s attorney. “This is something that could affect the entire country.”

This story is presented by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and wouldn’t be possible without you. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.


About Lee Williams

Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer,” is the chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shooter.

Lee Williams

Subscribe
Notify of
25 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
PAF145

Just to be clear ,the only veterans this administration respects are veterans of the Chinese Military

CourageousLion

Of course…what else do you expect from Chairman Xiden?

Stag

“Just days after the 2020 election, the club was notified in writing that they would have to start paying a minimum of $250 per range and that the fees would increase based on the total number of shooters.”

Sounds like there are one or more oathbreaking, anti-2A officers running that post who are taking advantage of a equally anti-2A administration in order to violate rights. They need to be court martialed.

nrringlee

I can just hear the senior officers and senior enlisted when they got the directive: ‘Yes, sir, thank you sir, may we have another sir?’ Rock painters.

Mac

Funny, I was stationed at Devens ’67-68, before my vacation in sunny Vietnam. Sure has changed; Devens was once a thriving Army Post supporting the surrounding communities and defending the Constitution, now it’s just another liberal haven to harass law abiding citizens of our once great country. Do sad.

CourageousLion

Defending the Constitution in Vietnam? Even existing as a part of a standing army defending the Constitution that is AGAINST standing armies? I don’t think so.

3l120

This is from your experience in the Nam?

CourageousLion

Another good reason to bring back “A well regulated MILITIA being NECESSARY to the SECURITY of a free state,…”https://courageouslion380.substack.com/p/those-forgotten-and-ignored-13-words-957

Boom

Money to process a FOIA? NO. That $1056 paid for that “Colonels” golf dues… A light colonel named Lindsey. ….disgusting.

This is yet another petty action, performed by yet another kitten playing with a ball-o-string, in a man’s world.

Wake up people. The kitchens’ calling all these corrupt females home…….

Tionico

I’d include, as part of the legal action, a certified accounting of where every penny of that check ended up. And WHO decided what should go where and why.
Some cheeseball’s head needs to roll. Maybe heads, as in plural.

Bill

Invest in precious metals: Lead and Brass!

GomeznSA

Bill – ya forgot copper (metal, not the badge carriers). 😉

nrringlee

This is now the new Jim Crow works. It is just like the old Jim Crow only the vilified classes have changed over time. Implicit in anything to do with progressive ideology is a determination to render moot the Constitution and our enumerated natural rights. Progressives of all flavors hate the ideas declared in our Declaration of Independence and hate the idea that there is an eternal power higher than government. Progressives believe they are the be-all and end-all of the universe and do not want to hear about the law of nature and nature’s God. So they connive and… Read more »

PMinFl

I hope that the reset starts in two weeks and grows from there.

swmft

when the demoncrats are gone there are lots of lefties in gubernment to get tossed with them

CourageousLion
Laddyboy

As PER THE CONSTITUTION: It IS the RESPONSIBILITY of the States, in America, to TRAIN the Militia!!!! The TRAINING has ceased many decades ago. Americans MUST learn OUR AMERICAN CONSTITUTION!!!

Wild Bill

Where, exactly, in the Constitution do you think that is written?

Ope

Bill, I think he’s confusing that with something else. It’s possible he meant state national guards instead of militias.

Last edited 3 months ago by Ope
Wild Bill

Whatever it is I am going to be diplomatic.

Tackleberry

A diplomat is a politician and you should never stoop to the level of a politician…

Wild Bill

Judicious?

Tackleberry

I believe he’s getting confused as to which classification. U.S. Code § 246 – Militia: composition and classes (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard. (b) The classes of the militia are— (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard… Read more »

Wild Bill

Many rumors about what is in the Constitution accumulate. And such discussions as these are helpful.

Tackleberry

There was a long ago SCOTUS decision that ruled states could run militias (i need to dig for clarification and title). This had the effect of eliminate citizen organized ones, in some states, while also denying citizens with weapons to “organize”. This is what propelled the State National Guards into full fruition. However, it did make the States responsible for th care, feeding, training, drill, we’ll supplied, well equipped, (the “well regulated” portion of the 2nd).So there is good and bad coming out of this. I’m real fuzzy as it was many decades ago, but I attended a course where… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Tackleberry