Wisconsin’s SB527 range protection legislation passed the legislature by wide margins; 19 – 13 in the senate and 65-35 in the house and was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on Wednesday. The law builds on current law which exempts sport shooting ranges from zoning ordinances related to noise and grandfathers in ranges that legally existed prior to July 16th, 2013. The bill also extends immunity from lawsuit to the owners and operators of the shooting ranges . . .
To counter strategies that have been used to attack and sometime close ranges in other states, the new bill exempts ranges from state or local zoning conditions or rules related to noise or to nonconforming use, including zoning laws related to shorelands or navigable waters, and immunity from civil liability related to the use or accumulation of projectiles on the range or other real property of the owner that is contiguous to the range.
Here is an example of one of the protections in the bill:
An owner, operator, officer, or board member of a sport shooting range, and any employee or volunteer acting on behalf of the owner or operator who provided recommendations regarding the operation of a sport shooting range, are immune from any civil action based solely on the negligent action of a user of the sport shooting range.
It’s clear that Wisconsin is learning the lessons of other states, where local governments have successfully shut down long-established ranges. For example, the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club in Washington State (est. 1926) has been under attack for years by local opponents who claim that property values will increase if the club is shut down. The Kitsap struggle continues to this day. The latest tactic is to claim that the club needed zoning permission to do maintenance on a long established driveway.
There are current controversies with ranges in Wisconsin that may be affected by the new law’s enactment. The Hartland Sportsmen’s Club is currently suing the city of Delafield to continue operating.
Allegations that shooting range lands are sought by developers who use zoning power to obtain it run rampant in many of these situations. A coalition of anti-gunners who want to stop shooting anywhere, anytime they can, and those who see a possibility for significant financial gain is often perceived.
Shooting ranges have been closed all over the country, making the ability to target practice or to meet legal requirements for carry permits difficult in many locations. No ranges currently exist in Chicago, and only one indoor range is available to the public in New York City.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.