Wilson column: Uncontrolled target shooting in residential areas is dangerous

-A A +A

Guest columnist Colin Wilson sent this letter to Lancaster County Council regarding target shooting in residential areas.

I have read that you are considering an ordinance concerning residents shooting on their private property.
I am a resident of Indian Land, a longtime National Rifle Associaion member, an avid skeet, trap, rifle and pistol shooter, as is my wife. We live on McFalls Drive off Carolina Acres Road in Indian Land. More than half of our neighbors are NRA members, hunters and shooters.
We have a problem – a renter who has moved into 11059 Caroline Acres and is using the backyard as a shooting range. He is an NRA pistol instructor and could be giving classes. We have no idea. It’s just some days you would think we are being invaded.  
I have dogs that are terrified to go into the acre area I have fenced off for them as they and I think we are downrange. The renter has told one neighbor he is shooting into a berm. I have seen people who appear to be shooting from multiple locations. All I can see is a 3- to 4-yard pile of dirt. One day, he had four or five people over there shooting.
I have spoken with Capt. Monty Craig on at least three dates and Sheriff Barry Faile on one concerning this issue. Capt. Craig assured me they would speak with him, but that the ordinance has not passed.
I love to shoot, which is why I joined a club that has huge walls and a 30-foot high berm.
Every time he (this renter) is shooting, I am called by multiple neighbors concerning this situation. This situation’s very frustrating for most of us as we love to shoot, but feel in this close proximity, it is rude at best, and, more importantly, very dangerous.
I have included two attachments with this letter, one a normal Google Earth snapshot of the area in question, the other a tracing of just the houses and their locations. I have used Google Earth to measure the distances from the rental house in question and all of our residences. I have marked those distances on the included chart. I measured distances from the rear of the rental house to nearest edge of each other house listed. When you look at the diagram, keep in mind one wild shot and there is a house in every direction, some of them with children, all of them with voting residents.
I apologize that my diagram is a little disorienting. Turn it so Caroline Acres and McFalls line up with the Google Earth snapshot and you will see an X in the center, with a home in every direction. The house identified as X on the chart is where the shooting range is at 11059 Caroline Acres.
The shooting appears to be happening in the backyard facing my home, but only the bullets know where they are all winding up. A No. 9 shotgun pellet, which is the smallest with a normal ¾ dram target load, is projected to travel roughly 900 yards. All larger pellets and bullets will travel way farther – up to a mile or more.
From years of shooting, I can testify that they are not shooting .22s or something small, probably .357s to .50-caliber. One of the guns is either a .50-caliber rifle or black-powder gun; it’s very loud.
This is nothing that should be allowed in a residential setting. Please let’s pass an ordinance that does not allow this dangerous type of situation. You should be required to have written permission from all residences within 300 yards of the proposed site for noise alone.
On the safety side, I could not begin to name the conditions a safety engineer would require. If you want to have a range on your property, there should be a 100- to 200-acre minimum, with permission from all contiguous neighbors in writing. This is a quality-of-life issue, as well as a safety issue.
Please make sure that any ordinance has teeth, such as first offense a recorded cease-and-desist from the sheriff, second offense a $500 fine, third and all subsequent offenses a $1,000 fine and court costs, in case of rental property, it should go against the shooter’s vehicle registration.