Recovering from the gun club fire

David C. Kelzenberg · Thursday, February 14, 2013
Many readers will be aware that the West Liberty Gun Club suffered a catastrophic fire on January 21, 2013. Our main building, which housed our indoor shooting range, our clubhouse, our office, our kitchen, rest rooms and work spaces were completely destroyed in this conflagration.

Before all else I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the firefighters and first responders of the West Liberty, West Branch, and Atalissa fire departments. While they were unable to save our principal building, they worked diligently in very cold weather throughout the afternoon and into the evening, and prevented the fire from spreading to other nearby structures. We have a superb group of firefighters in our communities, and we are grateful that their response was quick and professional in an emergency.

Our job at the West Liberty Gun Club has always been to promote the safe use and handling of firearms. We host a wide variety of shooting sports, including smallbore rifle, pistol, air rifle and pistol and trap matches. We run both sanctioned matches (registered with and operated under the authority of national sanctioning bodies such as the National Rifle Association, the Civilian Marksmanship Program, American Trap Association and the U.S. Practical Shooters Association), and informal “fun” club matches. With safe places to shoot becoming scarcer and scarcer, the West Liberty Gun Club has become a mecca for people in eastern Iowa who wish to participate in various shooting sports in a safe, controlled environment. Others come to learn more about their (and other) firearms, to target shoot, or simply to learn more about safe gun handling and storage procedures in general.

While our club lies outside the West Liberty city limits, we have always felt very much a part of the community. We have worked hard to be good neighbors and count many members of the community among our friends. Our matches and other events bring participants from around the region, and they all make use of convenient resources for shopping in town: great food and fuel, and occasionally even lodging in nearby communities.

We have always promoted safety above all else – all of our new members are required to take a firearms safety course, and when we run a sanctioned match, Range Safety Officers are on hand to enforce our policies for safe gun handling. These safety courses have always been available to other members of the community as well. In fact, our club motto is “Safety First, Last, and Always.”

Before the fire, the West Liberty Gun Club was open for public recreational shooting almost every weekend of the year, with trained Range Safety Officers on duty to assist shooters and enforce safe handling procedures. Many people from West Liberty and surrounding communities, some coming from as far away as Muscatine, the Quad Cities, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids in search of a safe place to shoot, came to the club for instruction, assistance, or just the experience of informal target shooting.

As we begin to deal with many difficult issues in the aftermath of this devastating fire, we are taking stock and planning for the future. While our building was insured, the coverage is nowhere near what it will cost us to replace our facility. We had no coverage on contents, which included furniture, appliances, computers, target rifles, ammunition and large quantities of targets and supplies required for matches and instruction. We also lost much of our history – our membership records, fiscal records, and correspondence from some sixty years of operation.

I am strongly committed to rebuilding our facility, as are all of our members. We have already begun the process of raising additional needed funds through grant applications and social media. In the near future, we will be turning to YOU, our friends and neighbors, to show your support of the club with a financial contribution. We want to return to the vital and active organization we were before the fire, to host shooting and archery matches, safety classes, and social events which benefit the community at large. If you’d like to follow our progress, check out our website:

I’d like to thank our many friends and neighbors who have already contacted me in support of the gun club and the rebuilding of our facility, as well as thank in advance those who will do so in the near future. Under happier circumstances I would be extending an invitation to everyone to come out and visit us for a fun and relaxing session of shooting. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, I cannot do so at this time. But with your help we will soon have an even better and safer facility. When that day comes, we will extend our hand in greeting and welcome friends old and new to the West Liberty Gun Club.
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