When I moved from the D.C. suburbs of northern Virginia to a small farm outside of the tiny town of Farmville six years ago, one of my first visitors was the county sheriff. I asked him if there were any local ordinances restricting shooting, and he cocked his head and thought about it for a moment.
“Well,” he said slowly. “The noise ordinance kicks in at 11 p.m.”
I laughed. “That’s it,” I asked incredulously.
He thought for another moment.
“It’s not an ordinance, but don’t shoot towards my house.”
Done and done. And for the past six years, I’ve had the genuine pleasure of being able to walk out my kitchen door, walk down the hill, and be plinking within two or three minutes. I’ve hunted on my property, and we’ve used firearms to go after predators like fox and coyote, as well as pesky and problematic varmints like groundhogs. My neighbors have that same freedom, and on the weekends or in the evenings I can sometimes hear two or three different folks shooting on their property. It’s never bothered me, because it’s the sound of freedom. It’s one of the reasons I moved to the country. Why would I be bothered by my neighbors doing what I do?
Granted, not everybody who lives out in the sticks owns guns or shoots. I understand. But it still bugs me when I see the “Not In My Back Yard” crowd trying to stop other people from shooting on their own property.
Less than 300 yards away from some of the homes in the Twin Oaks subdivision, a gravel pit is used as a makeshift shooting range from sunup until sundown most weekends. Residents say that when they call police to complain, they’re often told that nothing can be done.
The problem is that while their homes are within city limits, the privately-owned gravel pit where people fire guns is not. The city has an ordinance that prevents gunfire near homes, but the county has no such law.
″(Police) say there’s nothing they can do,” said Lori Duffy, a South Beloit commissioner who lives in the neighborhood. “But when you’re that close to houses, that’s a concern.”
Residents are asking the Winnebago County Board to consider an ordinance that would prevent people from shooting guns within 300 yards of a residence, effectively shutting down the shooting range. Duffy more than two years ago enlisted the help of the city’s attorney to craft the ordinance.
There’s no evidence that there’s any unsafe shooting taking place at this gravel pit in Winnebago County, Illinois. The story notes that one home in the subdivision has been struck by a bullet, but it didn’t come from the aforementioned gravel pit. This seems to be an issue more about noise than safety.
I’m not in favor of any ordinance that’s going to restrict residents from shooting safely on their property, but if these homeowners really want to cut down on the recreational shooting nearby, I have a suggestion: build a public range somewhere in the county. Make it easily accessible, and better than the backyard shooting spots most rural residents rely on.
You’re still going to have noise, which is argument in favor of removing suppressors from the National Firearms Act, in my opinion. Until we can lower the decibel level of our guns, though, a well constructed public range would be able to use design and technology to contain a lot of the noise. That should make homeowners happy, and it’s a far more reasonable (not to mention constitutionally friendly) solution than banning plinking on private property.