Sutro Tunnel illustrates fate of local gun range | Firearms Lawyer

Adolph Sutro should remind some of us of the struggle it will take to build an indoor shooting range in Federal Way.

Sutro was born in Prussia and arrived in the United States in 1850. The Sutro Tunnel in Nevada was a bold feat of mine engineering for which he advocated and struggled for years.

By the time work began on the tunnel in 1869, Sutro had lobbied Congress, worked with unions, fought with mine owners and banks, and traveled to Europe many times seeking investors.

Fire and carbon monoxide were just two hazards of life underground. The air was hot and dirty. Operating expenses had multiplied. Despite the mine owners’ initial enthusiasm for Sutro’s proposals, mine operators began to oppose Sutro. Financial and political warfare ensued.

Sutro published a series of pamphlets and used satire, statistics and political activism to win the people over to his side. The mining interests and the Bank of California heaped abuse on Sutro. But his personality and stubborn persistence finally convinced Congress to support his idea. He talked so much about a tunnel that Sutro was known as the man who had “bats in his belfry.”

In 1864, he petitioned the Nevada legislature for a franchise and received one. The Bank of California encouraged Sutro by giving him a letter to a bank in London. The Bank of California, however, began fighting the tunnel tooth and nail.

It turned out that Sutro’s plans for reducing the ore at the mouth of the tunnel threatened the bank’s interest in a firm that carried the ore to mills on the Carson River. The newspapers took up the fight against the tunnel and claimed that Virginia City’s property values would fall if the tunnel was completed.

Sutro managed to get the representatives from Washington to visit the Comstock mines. Despite the Bank of California’s stratagems, Sutro took the politicians down into the mines. The heat within the mines persuaded the lawmakers that the tunnel was needed to ventilate the deadly drifts — and get the silver ore to market safely and economically.

Sutro’s bold strategy was to shine light on the conspiracy to destroy his project and show how it operated. He discussed the dangers of not having a tunnel in case of fire in the mines.

Sutro was an exciting orator who presented pictures at his public meetings. Sutro’s audio-visuals displayed the Yellow Jacket fire, in which miners plunged down a burning mine shaft. The pictures focused on the miners’ families. The miners’ union provided $50,000 to start the work.

The labor unions and miners attended the ground breaking. The establishment held Sutro’s tunnel in derision and the California bank’s newspapers denounced it. The mainstream media, in the pockets of the banking elite, claimed the tunnel would depopulate Virginia City.

Sutro got the President and Congress to send a commission to Nevada. Sutro went to Europe next and raised nearly $1.5 million. Then, Sutro went to Washington, D.C., and claimed that the committee had been influenced by his enemies. A new 810-page report recommended a government loan of $2 million.

Just as when Adolph Sutro drove his tunnel through the mountain in the face of determined opposition, those that can benefit the most from building a gun range in Federal Way may complain that it is a crazy idea. Engineering and legal work needs to be done before the project is even close to being “shovel ready.”

There are no proposals for obtaining public funding. Banks see nothing but liability when new gun ranges are proposed.

The benefits for the public from building a range, however, go beyond recreational opportunities. A gun is a piece of personal safety equipment, like a fire extinguisher, that creates a path to safety in the face of violence.

There are men and women in our community who will invest large amounts of money to make the range a reality. There are corporations that recognize the need for local law enforcement and armed citizens to practice on a local range.

The Armed Defense Training Association in Federal Way will eventually present audio-visuals, detailed plans and financial projections. Gun training is not quite like driving a tunnel through a mountain, but the forces opposing our proposals are organized and connected in ways that should be expected.

We can build a facility that is profitable today that will be used by future generations.

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