The Midway Trap and Skeet Club in East Falmouth, Massachusetts has been continuously operating since 1959, providing residents of Cape Cod with a place to exercise their Second Amendment rights, bust some clays and get in a little fishing, too. But neighbors and the local government are conspiring to shut down the historic shooting range and don’t appear to be letting the club’s longevity get in their way.
As is the case with hundreds of other gun ranges across the United States (and some private airports as well) what was once empty bucolic landscape surrounding these ranges has been developed and turned into residential property. That’s great for families looking to buy their first house, but quite often the new owners didn’t count on the noise a shooting range produces when they wrote their down payment checks.
From the Cape News:
If neighbors of the Midway Trap and Skeet Club in East Falmouth have their way, the nonprofit hunting and fishing club will not be firing any guns on its two rifle and pistol ranges in the near future.
Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to resolve a dispute between neighbors and members of the club next month, to determine whether operation of the two gun ranges constitutes a legal use of the property under the current zoning bylaws.
It all boils down to this: the neighbors are upset that they bought a house next to a gun range. One where people are, you know, shooting guns. A range that’s been there for almost 60 years.
The disagreement hinges on whether a 100-foot rifle range and 25-foot pistol range were in existence on the East Falmouth property prior to 1971, when Falmouth Town Meeting passed a bylaw requiring new private, not-for-profit clubs to acquire special permits.
According to the lawyer for the home owners, the gun ranges were only added in 2014.
The club says otherwise.
In a response filed on May 15, the club took issue with Mr. Ament’s claims on behalf of the neighbors, stating that the gun ranges pre-date the 1971 ordinance.
Edward F. George Jr. of Woburn, attorney representing Midway Trap and Skeet Club, provided five sworn affidavits from club members testifying that they or their fathers used gun ranges on the property for shooting of rifles and pistols since the 1960s and early 1970s.
Club members state that recent improvements have been made to the gun ranges in 2010 for safety reasons. Those include addition of tires in front of the rifle range backstop and the clearing of brush, construction of a berm and addition of a backstop at the pistol range. A later appeal further clarifies that the backstop was added at the request of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Unfortunately it looks like those improvements, made by the club in good faith with the intent to reduce noise and make the gun range safer, might be the range’s downfall. There have been cases in the past where courts have ruled that modifications to an existing grandfathered structure require permits and remove the associated protections.
In this case such a permit would not have been possible due to an anti-gun city council. Those un-permitted modifications — made at the request of the state department of environmental protection — may have opened the door to the complete removal of the rifle and pistol ranges.
This is a perfect situation in which silencers could make all the difference.The primary complaint from neighbors is that — surprise! — gunfire is loud and annoying. But suppressors are illegal in Massachusetts. And the media, as in this Washington Post story, love to claim that silencers “militarize” guns and will lead to more crime. They say gun owners can solve the noise problem by simply putting on earmuffs.
But that does nothing for those who now live in close proximity to a gun range. Inexpensive, easy-to obtain silencers would reduce the noise made by the firearms, making the neighborhood a quieter place to live.