Yes In My Back Yard: The Case For Local Gun Ranges

One of the greatest things about living in rural Virginia is the fact that I can walk about my back door and be at my backyard range in a matter of seconds. Of course, with ammo in such short supply my plinking sessions have been fewer and farther between over the past few months, but between me and several of my neighbors, the sound of rifles, pistols, and shotguns are a fairly regular occurrence on the weekends.

I never mind hearing my neighbor banging away on his AR-15 or the distant sound of a shotgun blast. It’s the sound of freedom, and I’d much rather listen to my neighbors shooting on their property than the incessant whines of a dozen leaf blowers wielded by an army of suburban dads. I moved to the country for many reasons, and one of them was the ability to exercise my Second Amendment rights.

There are plenty of folks who disagree with me, unfortunately, and the issue of recreational shooting, whether at bare-bones backyard ranges or full-scale commercial operations, can be one of the most contentious topics at small-town city council and rural county commission meetings. In fact, in Woodstock, New Hampshire, a new gun range set to open its doors on Halloween has the town of 1,500 people deeply divided.

Nearby businesses warn that the sound of repeated gunshots could drive away customers who come to region in part for its quiet appeal at a time when tourism is already impacted by the coronavirus.

“We’re not for this at all,” said Lorraine Logiudice, who owns the 15-unit Meadow Lark Motor Court. “We aren’t opposed to a gun range. Just not one half a mile from our business.”

The shooting range is located off of Route 3, which sits in a valley along the Pemigewasset River. Neighbors say the landscape could further compound the sound of gun fire by creating echoes that will reverberate up and down the river.

“I love guns. I love to shoot. And it’s not about that,” said Kurt O’Connell, who owns a home near the range. “I’m not against the guns. I’m against the noise.”

This is a really good argument for removing suppressors from the National Firearms Act, but a really bad argument against a gun range. We have the right to keep and bear arms, and with that right comes the right and responsibility to train and be proficient with the guns that we own. That means we need access to a range, and in rural areas like Woodstock, an outdoor range makes much more sense and is going to be far more affordable to build and operate than an indoor range.

The range’s owner, Chris Caulder, 23, said he is taking steps to limit the impact on neighbors, including positioning the range near the back of the family-owned gravel pit. He said the range will operate from 8am to 5pm daily, and provide professional instruction to those looking to learn gun safety skills.

“Both family and friends have been shooting at our range since 2017,” said Caulder. “We’ve never had any issues shooting up there and I was very surprised to see some individuals so opposed to my business.”

Caulder said the nearby White Mountain Motorsports Park also creates sound heard well beyond the race track.

So there are already dirt bikes racing through the hills around Woodstock, but people are complaining about the sound of gunfire? This honestly makes me wonder how much of the complaints are really about the noise, and how many are ultimately about the guns.

I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said that those who are against the noise of an outdoor range should be arguing for increased access to suppressors. While they wouldn’t get rid of the noise of a busy firing line entirely, going from 150 decibels down to 120 would make a considerable difference. Making suppressors easier to acquire and use is a much better way to mitigate sound levels than trying to ban outdoor ranges from operating.

On some level, I do understand the “not in my back yard” mentality that leads folks to say things like, “I’m not against guns, I just don’t want the noise.” In theory, they don’t mind gun ranges, but in reality they mind them being within earshot of their house.

I hate to say it, but putting up with things that people may not want near them is a hazard of living in a rural area, or at least that’s been my experience over the past eight years, from prisons to mega-landfills to pipelines. We have to find space for these things somewhere, and the simple fact is that fewer people are going to be impacted by a landfill in a county with 18,000 people than a county with 1,800,000.

The same holds true for an outdoor gun range. I do sympathize with the business owners who fear a loss of business because of the sounds from the nearby range, but it’s one of the hazards (or benefits) of living in a rural area. Lots of people own guns, but not all of them have a safe or practical spot on their own property to use them. If Caulder’s Gold Bess Shooting Club generates a lot of noise on the weekend, it will be because it fills a need in the local community, just like the Meadow Lark Motor Court.

In fact, it could be that before long there are guests at the motel who are there not to wander through Woodstock’s quaint downtown but to train at the gun range. I think the new gun club has more potential to bring people to town than to drive them away, and I’d welcome a full-scale outdoor range near my own small town.

Given New Hampshire’s range protection laws, the Gold Bess Shooting Club should be able to open for business in just a few days without any issue. My advice to the locals is to embrace the potential for new visitors to Woodstock, welcome the sound of rifle and pistol practice as the sound of freedom, and say “yes in my back yard” to the new gun range, because like it or not, it’s coming.