Steve Donnell, owner of a controversial privately owned gun range within city limits of 29 Palms, was recently interviewed in Cactus Thorns. Ron Brault, the President of the Twentynine Palms Pistol & Rifle Range, is interviewed in order to get the two perspectives from two range operators. There is an ongoing feud between these two that has been going on for a long while. The 29 Palms Pistol & Gun Range is a few minutes drive East of the Donnell Range.
Following is an interview with Ron Brault.
BH: Ron, you are President of the 29 Palms Pistol & Rifle Range, is that right?
RB: That’s right Branson, I am the President.
BH: It’s my understanding the Range is a 501 (c) (7) Non-Profit California Corporation?
RB: That’s right, it is.
BH: It’s also my understanding that the Pistol & Rifle Range is available to a variety of law enforcement and related personnel and students.
RB: Right again Branson. Our Range is open to many of those as a public service to the community.
BH: Ron, before we go any further, you are widely known as a meticulous and persnickety wordsmith. I’ve read some of your writings in the local papers and have talked to you on the phone about the gun range issue before. I’ve reached the same conclusion as a few of your friends and acquaintances who’ve told me your writings are always consistent with your perfectionist style, and unambiguous in content… [cut off]
RB: Branson… [cut off]
BH: …hold on Ron, please let me finish. Is it okay if I record this interview. I have to ask; it’s the law. I’ll have to be very exact with your words, if I get it wrong you’ll be on me like a stampeding wildebeest in the Serengeti.
RB: No problem with that, go ahead.
BH: … Okay.
RB: Are you recording this interview now?
BH: Yes. Here we go…
BH: You’ve been outspoken with your criticism of Steve Donnell in Thorns. Is it the competition that has your ire?
RB: Well, I was actually hoping that Irvy’s range would work out for him. I’ve never been there and always thought it was more secluded. I began to get involved when Jim Burdett and his attorney questioned me on why Donnell wasn’t using our range. Then the city council and others wanted to know. We were starting to look bad because the owner of a local gun shop had to resort to building his own range in a residential neighborhood rather than use ours. I wish to keep my involvement in this case limited to why Donnell is not using our range.
BH: What about the allegation in Thorns that you pocketed $3,600.00 in cash that Donnell gave you for signing up new club members?
RB: This is nonsense and they know it. Donnell never ever gave me cash for signing up members. He would send in company checks via U.S. Mail made out to the gun club and it would be deposited. The amount collected is closer to $2,500.00. When dealing with the Donnell’s you have to realize that they never consider the consequences of their actions, they will always blame others for what they bring upon themselves, they never expect to get caught in their shenanigans and will lie or attempt to back peddle their way out when they do, and there is no line they will not cross to get what they want. Their thinking is extremely convoluted. Steve Donnell comes across as a kind and loving human being, he’s very good at it, but it’s all a façade. Donnell had me totally buffaloed for a year and a half. In dealing with the Donnells I was introduced to sociopathic type behavior.
BH: What about the allegation that you denied membership to a woman and intimidated her?
RB: This is more nonsense from Donnell. I am willing to meet with this alleged woman and listen to her story. We have never denied membership to anyone. It’s possible she may have contacted someone outside the club. If this is the case I will fix her up with a free yearly membership.
BH: That’s a generous offer Ron. Under what conditions would your club allow Donnell to use you range.
RB: Under no conditions, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. I have placed warnings in the corporate records for the benefit of future board members. The Donnell’s have been extremely hostile and disruptive towards our organization, they tried to disrupt the clubs leadership by filing a complaint with the state Attorney Generals Office, they have bullied other members while on the range, they could care less about placing our non-profit status in jeopardy which could result in the loss of our range, they have over charged our members for yearly dues and grossly misrepresented the terms of the membership, and Mr. Donnell is extremely careless when it comes to firearms safety.
BH: Firearms safety? Could you cite an example?
RB: I don’t feel it’s necessary to discuss the details, I don’t like going there and I’ll leave the issue alone if they will.
BH: Lets go there anyway. You said you wish to keep your involvement in this case limited to why Donnell is not using our range.
RB: Now Branson, don’t get testy with me. As President of the Range I’ll make the decisions of what is said and how much information should be out there. I’m in a better position than you to make these judgments on behalf of the Club.
BH: Okay Ron. Now what about the allegation you made against Donnell about overcharging for memberships? Do you have any proof?
RB: No, just the word of a senior enlisted man who claimed Donnell had instructed him and others to return to his shop after six-months and pay a $50.00 renewal fee. Our yearly membership is only $50.00, and Donnell was instructed not to take any renewals. This might explain why the applications Donnell turned in were illegible ink blobs so that the applicants would not know the terms of the membership. I doubt that a Marine Gunnery Sergeant would make any of this up. I’m wondering how many memberships Donnell sold that never got to us. We have since pretty much stopped the unauthorized use of the range by going with a registered key system rather than a combination lock.
BH: Do you allow illegal assault rifles on your range?
RB: We expect our members to know what the laws are and abide by them.
BH: What do you do if you discovered and illegal rifle on your range?
RB: We don’t police the range for so called assault weapons, we aren’t law enforcement. Shooting California illegal rifles at the range is not too bright because you never know who is set up along side you. Many from law enforcement use our range including a BATF agent who is a member. We do question those shooting full auto weapons and make sure they are authorized to have them.
BH: They are both illegal so why question one and not the other?
RB: If someone is shooting a Colt AR-15 or an AK-47 we assume the rifle was legally registered with the state. We don’t check for registrations, but I’m sure that’s coming. I feel this way about it. If the state wants us to be cops then they can pay us for our time. We check out full auto weapons because there is no provision in California law that allows civilians to own machine guns. We don’t need that sort of thing splashing over on us.
BH: Are you out to get Steve Donnell?
RB: (…long pause) Lets put it this way. I worked on ways for Steve to conduct his shooting lessons at our range. It was pretty much a done deal to give him a six-month trial period, then he turned on me like a rabid dog because I wanted to have a meeting about it. You have no idea the time, stress and frustration I have gone through in dealing with the Donnells. I called Steve and even wrote him a letter asking him to withdraw his complaint with the AGO. I wanted to settle this thing and not allow it to escalate. As far as I’m concerned I don’t owe Donnell any quarter. He brought this situation upon himself. Had he not turned hostile toward us he would have gotten everything he wanted. The people in the affected neighborhood [of Steve's gun range within the City limits of 29 Palms] need to know what kind of people they are dealing with.
BH: Steve is outspoken in that he is moving to go commercial with his private or recreational gun range, whatever it may be called. Do you think Donnell will get support from the National Rifle Association?
RB: It’s very doubtful that the NRA would approve or sanction or fund an outdoor commercial range in a residential neighborhood. It would make them and the shooting fraternity look careless and irresponsible.
BH: I guess that’s about it Ron. Better a shorter interview that a longer one. This issue has been so hammered lately, and seemingly one of the hottest issues in the Thorns for a long while. Is there anything else at this time you’d like to get out there?
RB: If there is Branson, I give you a call.
BH: Fair enough Ron. Thanks for you time and your input.
29 Palms Pistol & Rifle Club
This is a description of a US tax-exempt organization, based on IRS records.
IRS approved on 197405
Last filed 200712
Address Po Box 301
Twentynine Palm, CA 92277-0301
Filing month 12
Category Pleasure, Recreational, or Social Club
Activity Other social activities
Activity Other sports or athletic activities
Filing 990 – Not required to file Form 990 (income less than $25,000)
Filing No 990-PF return
Foundation All organizations except 501(c)(3)
Exemption Unconditional Exemption
Contributions are not deductible.
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