Firing ranges across NZ could soon include childcare centres.
There would be potential health and safety concerns but it would be a legal activity.
Providing childcare would help to make shooting ranges female-friendly and support the sport to be more gender inclusive.
In Australia the idea has been mooted by a leading advocate of women’s sport shooting Sally Jones.
“Childcare would be an advantage. To allow women to come along and have their children looked after whilst they're participating in a competition, or just a practice session," she said.
ABC news says it understands the sport’s national body supports the idea (the ABC news story link).
Critics however say that a firing range is not a healthy environment for infants to be in. Children could be exposed to lead dust – there is no safe level of exposure to lead since lead does not leave the body.
An owner of an indoor pistol club told the ABC news that if women were firing every day a childcare centre would likely be viable to establish. He has already invested heavily in reducing lead exposure for those using the club, including extractor fans and the use of special ammunition.
In NZ an early childhood centre can be developed and operated from any site – such as within high-rise inner-city buildings where the risk to children's lives from fire and earthquakes is greater than from a single storey building, and in old buildings putting children at potential risk of exposure to lead paint. Centres can be licensed within industrial areas, within 100 metres of a motorway, underneath the flight path of aircraft, and have playgrounds located alongside carparks exposing children to the risk of air pollution from exhaust fumes.
The NZ Ministry of Health fact sheet on firing ranges advises that children under 15 years of age and pregnant women should not participate in cleaning within the area in which guns are used but does not state that children should not be at or in the vicinity of a firing range.
A 2012 article by the National Business Review says that shooting is a kiwi sport which sons and daughters learn alongside their mum and dad.
“Some clubs boast two or three generations of family shooters, most of whom have come up from nippers squinting behind a trusty bolt action .22 rifle,” it mentioned.
At the Auckland Shooting Range, children under the age of 12 years may shoot an air rifle or pistol as long as they are supervised.
However, the issue at hand is not children’s access to firearms under supervision but whether firing ranges should be permitted to included childcare facilities.
It is a legal activity to operate a centre, providing the centre has resource consent and meets health and safety, and education regulations to be licensed.
If the childcare centre was provided in a separate area to the shooting range, with no risk to children being exposed to lead dust, would this be acceptable to all New Zealanders?