Rifle club wary of gun range proposal

PARKERSBURG – Representatives of the Fort Boreman Rifle Club told Wood County commissioners they are concerned proposed gun range regulations the commission is considering might affect their range.

The commissioners have issued a 30-day cease-and-desist order for the Sundowner Gun Range after continuing safety concerns from neighbors relating to bullets on their residential and commercial properties which they contended were fired from the Gihon Road gun range. The commissioners asked Prosecutor Jason Wharton to research gun range regulations in other areas. Copies of those regulations were submitted to the commission on Monday.

The owner of the Sundowner Gun Range has maintained his range is safe.

The commissioners have said they hope to assemble proposed legislation before the 30-day period expires. The commissioners said public meetings will be held on any proposed ordinances.

J.R. Hill, a member of the board of directors, and Jim Careb, secretary-treasurer of the Fort Boreman Rifle Club, told commissioners Monday they are concerned action taken by the commission might affect their club as well.

“There are a number of other gun ranges in the county and I don’t think we should be trying to spot zone just to address the complaints filed against the Sundowner,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

“We don’t have an inventory of all the existing gun ranges in the county and it was suggested to me it might be helpful to set up a committee to do that inventory and other related issues and to include members of the gun community in that committee. I think that’s a good idea,” Couch said.

Hill said the Fort Boreman Rifle Club has been in existence for many years and has more than 400 members. The gun range is located on North Meadville Road.

“This is a good time for you to speak up, Jason (Wharton) has asked for input on codation,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

Under W.Va. Code 7-1-3kk, the county commission has authority to enact ordinances for the elimination of hazards to public health and safety and to abate anything which the commission determines to be a public nuisance.

Both representatives of the gun club said they had not been on the Sundowner Gun Range, did not know anything about that range, and did not wish to specifically comment on it.

“We’re just concerned whatever you do might have an effect on us,” Careb said.

“Our major concern is you are addressing the Sundowner and as an unintentional consequence, what you do might affect other ranges as well,” Hill said.

At present, Couch said no building permits or planning commission approval are required for a gun range.

“We haven’t had a real problem until now,” he said of the complaints relating to the Sundowner.

Hill and Careb provided copies of a code section known as the Range Protection Act. Wharton said he was aware of the act.

“We discussed it with the homeowners association, they were the only ones who could bring a nusance action, not a safety issue,” Wharton said.

The 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 as of the date of the person acquiring their property.

“If there is a substantial change in use of the range after the person acquires the property, the person may maintain a nuisance action if the action is brought within two years from the beginning of the substantial change in use of the range.”

“The sheriff’s department has arrows in its quiver, but wouldn’t act. The prosecutor, who is the chief law enforcement officer, laid it on our doorstep,” Couch said.

Hill said they didn’t want to see everyone disciplined for one person misbehaving.

County officials listed at least seven known gun ranges including some that are restricted in use for members only or law enforcement officers.

Couch said the regulations from other areas include requirements for gun range owners to produce proof of their liability insurance, register with the county and abide by NRA standards.

“The main concern is protection of the community in the future and establishing guidelines so we have alittle more control,” Dunn said.

“If someone had addressed this five years ago, we probably wouldn’t be here now,” Couch said.

“We just don’t want something to happen that might negatively impact us down the road,” Careb said.