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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.

So Hodgkins has decided he’s tired of fighting the neighbors. This is, by no means, the only case of this kind. There are examples of neighbors challenging shooting ranges all over the country.

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?

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  1. Another reason the tax on silencers should be eliminated or reduced. Heck, if they dropped the tax to the $25-50 range, I’m sure it would generate more revenue and create a few jobs!

  2. The same thing happens to farms as well. People move out to the country and then complain because it smells like cows. Or because of dust blowing on their homes when the farmer is discing his fields.
    Now in Snohomish county where I lived in Washington is actually looking at setting up a new firing range to give people a place to go, to cut down on people firing on their properties close to Highway 9. The funny thing about that situation is that there is a Naturist Camp a few miles from that site that are complaining that a firing range will disturb the ambiance of their camp.

    • This was my exact thought when I read this. Move next to farm – don’t be surprised if it smells like one. Move next to a shooting range – don’t be surprised if you hear gunfire.

  3. Seriously, out where I live there has been an explosion of suburban developments out in areas that have been farm land for like a century. One family I know has been growing oranges for decades and now that houses have been built across the street they are fined when the neighbors complain about dust, and they are investigated when they spray pesticides. Who the fuck was there first? I’m sorry all these people are morons who moved into sub-standard housing on tiny pieces of land that they paid a fortune for that happen to be across the street from acres and acres of family owned farms that have been around longer than the town itself.

  4. Hmmm….if there was only a device that could suppress the sound of a rifle report, much like a muffler on a automobile.

    If only such a device could be invented as mass marketed as a safety device to protect hearing and quiet ranges. Perhaps even the Democrats could get behind this idea.

    Maxim not only invented the first “modern” machine gun and silencers, he also invented the modern mousetrap, an asthma/bronchitis inhaler, a curling iron, an apparatus for demagnetizing watches, magno-electric machines, devices to prevent the rolling of ships, eyelet and riveting machines, aircraft artillery, an aerial torpedo gun, coffee substitutes, and various oil, steam, and gas engines, and installed the first electric lights in NYC! (according to wikipedia)

    • Hiram Stevens Maxim created the Maxim machine gun. The Maxim silencer was developed by his son, Hiram Percy Maxim. The brother of HSM and uncle of HPM, Hudson Maxim, was one of the developers of DuPont’s version of smokeless gunpowder.

  5. I don’t know if it was a nation-wide policy or just local solution, but in Kaiserslautern, Germany, the local range had large culverts on the firing line. Each lane had a culvert (5-6 ft in diameter). The range was next to the local hunting club but was used by the US Air Force security police. The noise was muffled. Even when firing an M-60, the noise was reduced to very tolerable limits.

    • I know the range well Sid…I put many a round down range as Security Forces trooper and a member of the Rod and Gun club. We’d use Baumholder also for M2/81mm/ and MK19s. We had a land navigation course also in the woods nearby. Ever run into some of the local “talent” like Mortuary Mary plying her services?

  6. Same mentality of the dipshits here in Phoenix that buy a house near Luke AFB then bitch about the noise and want it closed. There needs to be prison sentences attached to that kind of selfish stupidity.

    • Same thing happens here in Tucson: Move next to one of the largest airbases in the country, bitch about noise.

    • i live about 4 miles from luke afb. i knew what it would be like from having been in the army. but then i started hearing the complaints about how people said they didn’t want the base there anymore. because it was too loud, had too much traffic, and pollution and blah blah blah, etc. the base has been there forever, since 1940(Wikipedia), the obviously new houses in the area have not been there for more than 10 years, their foundations haven’t even finished settling yet. most of these idiots don’t realize it was because of the base that their homes were built. now if they get their way, it will destroy the area, the base provides insanely high amounts of revenue to the surrounding area and to the city of Glendale, AZ, which it seems to be a part of.
      people need to stop moving in next to something that’s been there longer than my grand dad and complain that its a problem. or i might just go and move in next to something they love and say its a problem and that it needs to get the hell out.

  7. @Daniel Zimmerman: Why did you leave out one entire side of the story? Seems rather selective… like you think we are idiots and you can just flat out lie to us whenever you like. That’s not very nice, or very honest. Here is the rest of the story, from the same source you used:

    “For years, the range co-existed peacefully with the neighborhood, but abutters say the situation began to change several years ago after Robert Hodgkins, who co-owned the property with his brother Thomas C. Hodgkins, died and left his half to his three children.

    “At the zoning hearing in February, neighbors maintained that Robert C. Hodgkins III, one of the late Robert Hodgkins’ children, was using the range commercially in connection with a security company he owns in New Hampshire. Several people told the board that, instead of the rifle and shotgun fire they tolerated for decades, they were being subjected to automatic weapsons fire and explosions. A lawyer representing Verrilo even played videos from the Web sites of a weapons dealer that purportedly showed people firing automatic weapons on the land.

    “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.”

    • I included the entire third paragraph you listed. See above. I also linked to the article so anyone who wants to can read the full story, as you did. The additional two paragraphs don’t change things.

      The gist of the issue is as I stated. People who bought property next to a gun range are complaining about gunfire. As the owner said, “as long as I’m not breaking any laws, I don’t see the problem.”

      • No, you left out the part about the property now being used for explosives training and automatic weapons fire. That’s significant, don’t you think?

        If a rifle range in my neck of the woods suddenly went to explosives training and automatic weapons fire for hours on end, I’d complain too. So would you. So based on the info in the news story at least, the neighbors do not appear to be unreasonable. You only made them look unreasonable by omitting their side of the story.

      • Daniel, the “gist” of the article was summed up thusly, by you at your grandiose victimism best:

        “a general assault on gun ranges”

        You guys just love to be the persecuted underdogs. To paint yourselves that way you’ll leave out pertinent parts of the story, as Magoo pointed out.

    • I fear I actually have agree with Magoo on this one. The article here on TTAG seems rather deceiving. It seems odd to so blatantly leave out a whole other side of the story, that, IMO, actually gives the people in the surrounding area reason to complain.

      I agree that anyone stupid enough to move in next to a gun range and then complain are complete idiots that should be ignored. However, if long time residents that have lived with the gun range for years are suddenly subjected to explosions? I would be pissed too.

      I know Daniel posted a link to the story, but I don’t always read them if I am in a hurry, etc. And, I’m guessing that is probably the case with many other readers here.

      I usually like your stories, Daniel, but I think this one is a miss.

  8. Great story Dan. My cousin who’s a complete moron build a new home in MA down the road from a range that’s been there for over fifty years. He hated the noise and started a petition to have the range closed and he filed a complaint with the Attorney General. Only two people signed his dumb ass petition and the AG said that they couldn’t do anything. He’s still pissed, but he lost and he’s the idiot who built a home near a SHOOTING RANGE. Keep up the great work Dan, I really like your posts.

  9. I never heard of Williamsburg, MA, so being a prisoner of the People’s Kommonwealth myself, I thought I’d look it up. According to Wikipedia, the metropolis is composed of about 650 families (some significan inbreeding may have occurred prior to eugenics laws) and boasts a population density that’s right up there with certain Himalayan peaks. So, it seems to me that this is probably not an anti-gun deal. More likely, it’s the typical New England phenomenon known as “Not In My Back Yard,” or NIMBY. A new hospital is needed? NIMBY. How about an elegant new subdivision? NIMBY. Like Grouch Marx once sang, “whatever it is, I’m against it.” NIMBY is what makes New England what it is — a total pain in my ass.

    • NIMBY is more common in built-up suburbs, especially when there is an influx of out-of-staters.

      In rural areas, it could be a select group of anti-gun whiners, or it could be the nostalgic “I want things they used to be” cranks, or even a single someone with a grudge who enlists some friends to sign their petition.

  10. as a drag racer i highly doubt these people have any other agenda besides “we want peace and quiet” i can’t tell you how many drag strips where built in the boonies in the 50’s or 60’s had the suburbs build around them and then complain about the noise, we have lost some good tracks. I’m all for being a good neighbor, if my neighbor came up to me and said hey man can you not shoot after 9 (which i doubt i would anyway) I’d say that’s fine neighbor. but making someone cease their activity come on…

  11. Land in the middle of nowhere doesn’t always stay that way. Just because the law doesn’t say much on it doesn’t mean you should be cavalier about being a dick to your neighbors.

    “No loud music before 8 am or after 10 pm” is perfectly reasonable. Why isn’t “No gunfire before 8 am or after 10 pm”?

    And if it is non-stop fully automatic fire, and explosions, that’s another ballgame altogether.

    “I was here first” wah wah wah. Things change, and not understanding those changes doesn’t make one a hero. Some give and take goes a long way towards a peaceful situation.

  12. NIMBY occurs in rural areas too. Especially when out of towners “move out to the country” for “peace & quiet etc”. My family experienced it first hand. All that said if a neighboring range all of a sudden started lots of FA fire and explosives I probably would t be happy. Depends on how much/often and what time of day.

  13. Robert Frost quoted the old adage that good fences make good neighbors. He was wrong. If you put up a good fence, your neighbor will sue you to tear it down. The truth is that good neighbors make good neighbors, and they are in very short supply.

  14. Near me they are building a half million dollar sound wall next to the Interstate for 3 low income houses, which have all been bought and sold a number of times since the Interstate was constructed. The hell of it is, they cut down a bunch of trees to make room for the sound wall! Cut down a natural, nice looking sound barrier so we can block SLIGHTLY more sound, and make PA look like NJ.

  15. My gun club had existed at its previous location for more than 70 years. It was all farm and woodland back in the 1930’s, and houses popped up around it. Eventually, the community pushed us out with complaints of noise. It didn’t matter that they had moved next to a gun range that had been operating since before their parents were born, the residents wanted us out. The village rezoned the land, and we got pushed out. It happens all the time.

  16. Your article and post are completely ignorant. At least three neighboring families have lived here since long before this weapons range began in the 1950’s. Our farmhouse was built in 1926. We are not NIMBY’s and we are also gun owners. Try to show at least the minimum of intelligence in venting your frustrations that have NOTHING to do with our comunity’s problem: disrespectful, arrogant, ignorant people who dont even live in our town exercising their “rights” to be as American as apple pie.
    keith harmon snow

  17. Correction: Our farmhouse was built in 1826 (not 1926). My family drove off the indians way back when this valley was mostly “wilderness” and “savages”. Now we have savages back again.

  18. If suppressors ever become legal, I see many gun ranges being forced to require them. No thanks.

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