Italians turning U.S.-used gun range into garbage dump
June 25, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — The closure of the only outdoor shooting range in the Campania region may leave several U.S. military units without a local facility for outdoor weapons training. Recent protests over a proposed dump site in Chiaino have blocked access to the Dynamic Shooting Club in the neighborhood of Marano since May 4, club owners said.
Seven sessions at the range have been postponed as of this week, Navy officials said. Although the Navy has weekly training sessions scheduled at the Dynamic Shooting Club, Navy officials said the range closure had no impact on the base’s security department training requirements.
"NSA Security will continue to maintain its readiness and provide force protection measures to its bases no matter of outstanding circumstances," officials said in a prepared statement Tuesday afternoon.
Owners of the Dynamic Shooting Club were officially notified Sunday of the conversion from gun range to garbage dump.
"It was confirmed by officials from Guido Bertolaso’s office," said Stefano Carpinella, one of the owners and managers of the club.
Bertolaso is Italy’s new "trash czar," tasked with implementing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s plan to rid Naples of its decades-long trash woes. The shooting range is one of nine areas Berlusconi set his sights on to create badly needed dumping grounds in southern Italy.
Bertolaso is also Italy’s civil security chief. With the unrest created by the garbage crisis, the two positions are inseparable. Numerous protests — sometimes violent — over proposed dump sites have erupted throughout Naples since last December.
"There have been lots of fights between police and residents," Carpinella said, standing on the road leading to his range. "There are about 4,500 families living here. These people live too close to the range and that’s what they’re afraid of — 700,000 tons of trash. They’re trying to sell their houses now, but who’s going to buy?"
Walking along the road that is now closed to cars and trucks, the view is of downed tree limbs, piles of garbage and what look like empty market stalls. Protest banners hanging from residents’ balconies read "Where are our rights?" and "We are humans, not butchers’ meat." The anger expressed by residents is leveled squarely at the government, according to Carpinella.
"For 14 years, [the government] did nothing," he said. "They just got a lot of money from Rome and did nothing. And now we have this emergency. This is not an emergency, this is a tragedy."
While local residents have to contend with mountains of uncollected trash and the pending dump site, the U.S. Navy, which held weekly training sessions on the range, now has to locate another facility. The nearest outdoor range is in Latina, Carpinella said, about two hours north of Naples.
"We serve the Italian police, the U.S. Army, [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and some of the NATO forces as well," Carpinella said. "The soonest we could open another facility in the area would be in September or October — and that would be a miracle."