Say it ain’t so. Please. Tell me that the neighbors of a shooting range in Williamsburg, MA aren’t complaining about the sound of gunfire. First it’s the MacArthur grant finalist who wanted to be shot in order to attract a girl. Now it’s people who live near a range that’s been there since the 1930s complaining about the sound of gunfire. Are we undergoing some sort of mass dial-back of the national IQ? Or is this simply one more example of a general assault on gun ranges? A way to reduce the number of places that law-abiders can shoot for fun and practice. We report. You decide…
The Williamsburg range has been in Robert Hodgkins’ family for about 80 years. It seems likely that his neighbors bought their property with full knowledge of what was within earshot. And if not, whose fault would that be? In any case, they’ve complained to the local zoning board.
The zoning board’s decision limited use of the range to the level of use in 2003, when the current zoning went into effect, and said shooting could only occur between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Verrilo said she heard only single-shot fire following the ruling. Beginning on July 4, however, she began hearing the sound of automatic weapons again, she said. It climaxed with seven hours of heavy gunfire on Wednesday, according to Verrilo.
“The zoning order is incomprehensible,” [the zoning enforcement officer] said. “It doesn’t speak to the 2003 levels.”
Hodgkins acknowledged Thursday that he and others have been shooting on the property, but maintains he has not violated the zoning board’s ruling. “What they put out is unenforceable,” he said. “As long as I’m not breaking any laws, I don’t see the problem.”
In April, Hodgkins said he would put the property up for sale because he was weary of the zoning board’s “idiocy.” He said Thursday that his family has sold a small piece to a local farm, but the rest remains on the market for $795,000. Hodgkins called complains about the recent gunfire “pouting” on the part of neighbors.
Our friends at the Violence Policy Center have an explicit goal of reducing the number of shooting options available to gun owners. What they can’t accomplish through Congress or the courts, they’re out to do by other means. One of their strategies is closing down existing ranges wherever possible.
The vast majority of Americans who do not own guns and have no interest in subsidizing the gun industry can do a number of things about the shooting-range industry and its depredations.
Here are a few actions the VPC suggest Americans take to combat the scourges upon the landscape that are gun ranges:
All children who have any direct or indirect exposure to a shooting range or to reloading should immediately have their blood lead levels tested. There is no truly “safe” level of exposure to lead. Any child who has recently shot at a range, or otherwise been present at a shooting range, needs to be tested. Likewise, any child who has participated in, or had any exposure to, ammunition reloading should be tested. Furthermore, any child with indirect exposure through a parent, sibling, etc. who frequents shooting ranges or engages in reloading should be tested.
No children should be allowed at shooting ranges, nor should they participate in or be exposed to ammunition reloading, since there is no “safe” level of lead exposure for children. Minimum age standards of 18 should be imposed at all shooting ranges and no parent should allow children access to ammunition reloading equipment.
Conduct local “audits” of shooting ranges to check lead levels at ranges and ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including zoning, noise, environmental, as well as health and safety. One of the most effective things local activists can do is to form coalitions with health and environmental groups to challenge shooting-range compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and test ranges for lead. Applicable standards include not only zoning and noise ordinances, but state, local, and federal health and environmental-protection laws and regulations. (One of the best sources of information about this potential is material published by the NRA and the NSSF relating to shooting ranges.) In many cases, citizens will find that they can themselves bring lawsuits directly against shooting ranges that are arguably not in compliance with environmental laws. In others, they can urge government officials to take appropriate action.
There’s no way of knowing, of course, whether the VPC’s anti-range manifesto had any influence over the actions of Hodgkins’ Williamsburg neighbors. But it seems difficult to believe they’ve just recently discovered there’s an active gun range next to their property. Which makes you wonder, do they have another agenda or are they just fools?