Taking your family to the Cowlitz County’s public shooting range just became less expensive.

At Tuesday’s county commissioner meeting, the three commissioners sent a letter approving the Cowlitz Game and Anglers’ request to waive all fees for youth ages 12 and younger. These fees include a lead mitigation fee.

According to Game and Anglers President Russ Barnes, the group wanted to let kids in free after families complained about the high price of going to their shooting range, which the outdoors club manages.

“Families come up (to the range), and if they’re going to pay full fees, they say, ‘That’s too much, we can’t afford that,’ “ Barnes said. “We got the commissioners to agree to lower those fees, and kids can be trained to shoot, respect firearms, and go on with a respectable life. We’re very happy about it, and families don’t have to pay an arm and a leg just to shoot a gun.”

Game and Anglers Range Master Rob Mowell said before the commissioners’ decision Tuesday, kids 12 and under had to pay $8 to shoot. Although now preteens can shoot for free, adult fees are staying steady at $12 per person. The fee goes to pay the county to repay construction loans, maintain the range and clean up bullets and shot.

Mowell added that youth 12 and under will still need to pay to shoot a round of 25 clay pigeons, since the $3-per-round ticket price goes towards purchasing the pigeons themselves. Adults’ $4-per-round tickets will also stay the same.

However, Mowell said the club hopes to make it free for kids to shoot clay pigeons as well in the future.

For those who worry about a reduction in lead mitigation because of the waived fees, Mowell said Game and Anglers will continue to keep their range safe from lead contamination.

“We have a very extensive lead mitigation program and protocol,” Mowell said. “As far as the lead goes, if you wash your hands after you shoot, you’ve mitigated 99.9 percent of the health risks.”

All three commissioners stated that they thought allowing kids to shoot for free is a great plan.

“I think that there’s a lot of kids who’d like to have the opportunity to shoot, and waiving the fee opens the door even more to let them try it out,” Commissioner Joe Gardner said.

Commissioner Arne Mortensen added that free admission will help teach kids gun safety standards, and he said the move could potentially bring in more adults as well.

“It’s kind of like when a restaurant says kids eat free,” he said. “More moms and dads will go to the restaurant, and we want more people at the range.”

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