As the Wood County Commission begins looking for ways to regulate gun ranges, the three-member panel must separate the emotion from the discussion and base their deliberations on logic to reach a decision fair for all parties involved.
The commission’s recent 30-day cease-and-desist order for the Sundowner Gun Range on Gihon Road came after repeated complaints by neighbors that their homes and property have been hit by bullets they say were fired by shooters using the range.
While that order effects only the Sundowner, this week, two representatives of the Fort Boreman Rifle Club told commissioners they are concerned passing blanket regulations could also affect their club, which has been in existence since 1939 and has operated at its present location since 1968.
Neighbors have not complained about safety issues involving shooters at Fort Boreman, but this week the newspaper talked to a homeowner who complained about noise and the type of weapons he says are being fired.
The commission asked Prosecutor Jason Wharton to research regulations in other counties, which he presented at this past Monday’s commission meeting. Commissioners now will begin to put together a proposal before the 30-day period expires. At that time, public hearings would be held to give residents the chance to comment on the legislation.
A gun range probably isn’t the best neighbor to have, but the state recognizes there is a difference between the issues of safety and the issues of nuisance. The state’s Range Protection Act does not allow an individual to bring a “nuisance action for noise” against a shooting range in the vicinity of the person’s property if the range was established before a person acquired his or her property. The Fort Boreman Rifle Club, which has 400 members and a caretaker who lives on the property, was established before the land around it was developed.
Public safety is another matter. No one should have to worry about their family being shot or killed or their property being damaged by gun range users.
Commissioners have a difficult task ahead of them. They will not please everyone, but the guiding rule should be whether a gun range is a hazard to safety.