Gun range committee weighs regulations

PARKERSBURG – A gun range committee appointed by the Wood County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday evening on two recommendations it will forward to county officials.

After nearly two hours of debate and discussion, the committee decided to recommend the commissioners require any new gun range owner, whether an indoor or outdoor range, to submit a set of plans from a professional engineer or architect which would then go through the county’s building permit process.

The committee is also recommending the plans submitted address industry standards contained in the current National Rifle Association Source Book.

Committee chairman Greg Smith noted the proposed regulations would not be applicable to existing gun ranges.

“If there are complaints lodged about existing ranges, the county has a number of options available to it including asking the gun range owner to have a case study done by the NRA Source Team,” Smith said.

Smith said he was told by NRA officials that residents complaining about bullets from a gun range ending up on their property can file trespassing charges which would then be investigated by local law enforcement. There are regulations relating to noise concerns and gun ranges.

“If it is a public health/safety issue, they can always issue a cease and desist order like they did in the current case,” Smith said referring to the commission’s action against the Sundowner Gun Range.

The committee, which includes gun range owners, NRA-certified gun instructors, as well as residents who live near the Sundowner Gun Range, which has been the subject of complaints for the past two years, agreed the proposed recommendations would not cover individuals shooting on their private property for target practice or other circumstances that did not meet the definition of a shooting range.

Committee member Bob Buchanan said he was not in favor of “doing anything that is going to end up costing the county money.”

Committee members were concerned that the commission passing an ordinance relating to the ranges might negate existing regulations that cover gun ranges.

“If you start putting on additional ordinances that could actually be diluting the laws that already exist. There are already five agencies that regulate gun ranges, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Department of Natural Resources,” Smith told the committee members.

“I think the main thing we are concerned with is safety,” Smith said.

“I would think it would be to an operator’s advantage to meet with adjoining property owners before opening a range,” Steve Mahaffey with the Wildwood Homeowners Association said. The association and other neighbors of the Sundowner have lodged complaints with the county commission about bullets they’ve found on their property they say were fired from the Gihon Road range.

“The bottom line is the range owner is the one responsible to make sure the projectiles don’t leave the boundaries of their range,” said committee member Dan Hylbert, an NRA-certified gun instructor.

If there is a problem, a complaint, Smith noted the commissioners can request the range owner have an NRA case study done, and if they refuse, there is other action that can be taken.

The recommendations of the committee will be forwarded to the commissioners for their review. The commissioners have stated they will offer opportunities for the public to comment before any action being taken.