Every year for about a month-long period, red warning flags go up on one of Kauai’s west side beaches. That’s because the military conducts live target practice in the area, home to the Kekaha Rifle Range.

For decades, a one-mile area of the Pacific fronting the range has been off-limits during training. Surfers, fishermen and beach-goers know to be extra careful when in or around the area; however, it’s usually always news to visitors, who aren’t familiar with the annual procedures.

The community has always been somewhat opposed to this “danger zone,” as it’s been called. But they were especially upset when the Hawaii Army National Guard recently sought to intermittently restrict public access to a larger, six-mile wide area of the ocean.

While the proposal has since been withdrawn by the National Guard, it still stirs up issues that have seemed to settle below the surface for decades. Tour boat companies complain that the live target practice not only puts passengers at risk but marine animals as well. Some say the one-mile restricted area violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which protects humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals and dolphins that frequent the area.

The bottom line? A shooting range does not belong at a public beach. Instead, it should be moved to a safer area and not expanded. The current danger zone puts a lot of lives at risk, so why not move it to somewhere less populated? Will it take an accident or death for that decision to be made? I sure hope not.

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