When I left the D.C. suburbs and moved to rural Virginia ten years ago, one of the things I was most excited about was having the opportunity to go plinking on my property. Instead of having to navigate northern Virginia traffic and drive a half-hour or more to get to the nearest range, I could simply walk out my back door and head down a hill to a location on my property where it’s perfectly safe for me to punch some holes in paper.
I was a little concerned about running afoul of any potential restrictions, but when I spoke to my local sheriff and asked if there was anything I needed to be aware of, he thought for a moment and replied “well, the noise ordinance kicks in at 11 p.m.”
It’s not uncommon for me (or my neighbors) to hear the sound of gunshots, and not just during deer or turkey season. Thankfully, we haven’t had any NIMBY-types try to change that, but out in Colorado Democrats are advancing a measure that would give counties the authority to ban the discharge of firearms on private property, even in rural unincorporated areas.
Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, who sponsored House Bill 1165, described it as a response to what’s happening in Boulder, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties, which, she said, is increasingly getting complaints from residents that neighbors are discharging firearms in a manner they claim is unsafe or create a nuisance.
“People move to rural communities for peace and quiet,” she said, adding they aren’t getting it.
Part of the problem is these rural areas are becoming more populated and running into conflicts over firearm discharges, Amabile said.
Actually, I moved to the country so I could have more freedom, not less noise. I do love those quiet evenings when I can hear owls hooting in the woods beyond my home or the croaking of hundreds of frogs down by the creek, but that wasn’t the primary reason I left the crowded D.C. suburbs. My family wanted a little spot of land we could call our own, and one that allowed us the space to do things like raise livestock, plant a big garden, and yes, go shooting whenever I want (at least before 11 p.m.).
We certainly didn’t move to a rural county just so we could try to transform it into an outpost of northern Virginia, but opponents of the Colorado bill say that’s exactly what’s taking place in their state.
Rep. Ty Winter, R-Trinidad, also acknowledged that people are moving to rural Colorado, but the problem is when they do, he said, they expect the longtime residents to change their way of life.
Rep. Don Wilson, R-Monument, added that the law would not be enforceable, while leading to more calls to sheriffs, as well as false reports when neighbors are in dispute.
But things change and people have to adjust, said Amabile, who argued that some of the new people moving into rural areas are the ones discharging firearms, affecting the longtime residents.
She said the only rule right now is that any must be discharge be safe and added that the county sheriffs’ association does not oppose the bill.
“We don’t need to wait until somebody dies in order to do something that makes common sense,” she said. “We ought to fix a problem before it turns tragic.”
Critics said individuals who move into rural areas should accept their longtime neighbors’ way of life, and argued for people’s ability to exercise certain freedoms within their own properties.
Owen Clyncke, who lives on a family homestead in Colorado settled on 1861, said his family has been shooting responsibly all along.
“You people made the decision to move out to a rural area,” he said. “You need to change and accept the fact that your neighbors have the right to exercise to exercise their rights on their property.”
The government has no interest “in me discharging a firearm on my property if the projectile never leaves my property,” said Darren Hill, a former law enforcement officer in Douglas County, in speaking against the bill.
I wish that were the case, but the Democrats in charge in Colorado are absolutely interested in restricting the rights of gun owners, even on their own property. And as bad as this bill is, there’s far worse legislation on the way in the state, with anti-gun lawmakers continuing to draft a bill to ban so-called assault weapons and at least a half-dozen other measures expected to get a hearing this session. Colorado is a beautiful state, but its gun laws could soon be so toxic that many Second Amendment supporters will leave for greener pastures.. or at least locations where they can still exercise their right to bear arms in peace.