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THS students, parents, and teachers petition against nearby indoor shooting range

Tafuna High School sign
They ask the governor to donate the building to THS

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  Nearly 200 students, parents, and teachers of Tafuna High School have already signed a petition calling on Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to relocate the US Army Reserve’s indoor shooting range facility, and instead use the building to alleviate overcrowding at the high school.

“As parents, teachers and students of Tafuna High School, we strongly object to having a shooting range in such close proximity to our school campus,” wrote THS Parent/Teacher Association (PTA) president, William E. Spitzenberg in a letter late last week to the governor.


Among the three reasons why the PTA and students are petitioning the ASG to relocate the shooting range is because “It is in violation of the federal Gun Free School Zones [Act],” according to the letter.

The 1990 federal law, which is part of the federal Crime Control Act of 1990, prohibits the possession or discharge of a firearm in a school zone, according to Congressional online records and other publicly available online information.

The law applies to public, private, and parochial elementary schools and high schools, and to non-private property within 1000-feet of them. The law provides that the states and their political subdivisions may issue licenses that exempt the licensed individuals from the prohibition.

Samoa News wasn’t able to get confirmation or verification through available federal resources, if “states” includes American Samoa and other US territories.

The indoor shooting range — Modular Small Arms Range (MSAR) — is a project of the 9th Mission Support Command (9th MSC) based at Fort Shafter, Hawai’i, which oversees the local Army Reserve.

The 9th MSC didn’t immediately respond to Samoa News inquiries pertaining to the Gun Free School Zones Act, and when the MSAR will officially open.


Other reasons noted in the letter to Lolo include: the facility is “built in a school zone within a few feet” of Tafuna High and South Pacific Academy campuses; and it “poses a danger to the students and the general public in the area”.

Spitzenberg explained that the PTA “was not aware, nor were we informed of the purpose of this building” when construction first started.

As parents, teachers and students of the Tafuna High, “we strongly object to having a shooting range in such close proximity to our school campus,” wrote Spitzenberg, who noted that Tafuna High is the largest public high school in the territory with a current enrollment of over 1,100 students.

“Having a shooting range within a few yards of the school poses a major threat and danger to the students and faculty members,” he added, and requested that it be relocated to a “more suitable location” — far away from schools and businesses.

Spitzenberg then asks that “since the building is already constructed, that it be donated to Tafuna High School to be used for classrooms to help resolve the ongoing overcrowding issue we continue to face.”

Spitzenberg informed the governor that close to 200 parents, teachers, and students have already signed the petition, with more to follow. “We look forward to your kind consideration of our humble request,” he concluded.

(The letter to Lolo was accompanied by the petition, with the names of those who signed it).

Lolo is currently in Honolulu for meetings, and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Sialega Palepoi Mauga is acting governor.

The MSAR was the subject of a two-day public forum held late last month at the Army Reserve Center in Tafuna. It was the third separate series of public engagements held in the territory by the 9th MSC.

Spitzenberg and other members of the public, along with students and teachers of South Pacific Academy, attended last month’s forum, where officials from the 9th MSC gave a presentation and answered questions about the MSAR.

The audience was informed that — among other things — the facility will be surrounded by an 8-foot wall,  no noise will be heard; and ammunition used will be accounted for, stored, and sealed for transportation off-island.