Citizens take aim at firing range

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Grayson residents — most of them hunters, sportsmen or firearms enthusiasts — express concerns about a proposed public shooting range.

By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Grayson citizens continue to reload their ammunition as the county continues its pursuit of a public shooting range near the old landfill site.
Four citizens spoke in opposition of the proposed location during a public comments period at the Grayson Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 13.
Tony Goodman spoke first and, although his home is in Baywood, he owns land adjacent to the proposed location.
“I’m in favor of a firing range, very much so,” Goodman said, noting that it will be a great thing for the citizens of Grayson County and law enforcement individuals. “I am not in favor of where it’s being proposed to be put. I don’t see how it can be made safe.”
Goodman said he owns the adjacent land to the proposed site and that he, his friends and his kids all hunt that land.
Goodman said his deer stands are directly behind the back stops, the bank into which people would be firing. He is concerned that a stray bullet could go into the woods where he and his family could be hunting.
He added concerns about digging down into the ground to create the firing lanes and back stops could unveil trash and methane gas.
“If you have to haul dirt in there, it’s going to be tons and tons,” he told the board.
Goodman added that “bullets do get away” and made mention of a bullet at the Galax firing range that went through a window and landed in a nearby sink of a home in the area.
“If a bullet does get away it needs to be in an area where it won’t hurt anyone,” he said.
Goodman was also concerned about subdivisions that have already been approved in the area and for those people who have built homes in the country to get the solitude and peace and quiet that Grayson provides.
A shooting range, he continued, is not going to be good for those that live there or future developers.
“I don’t see how the planning commission can even consider approving that site as a proposed shooting range,” Goodman said. “There are some other locations. It’s not fair for those people to put up with the noise after they built out there for peace and quiet.”
Goodman concluded by saying his concern is that it’s simply not safe and in his opinion there is no way to make that location safe.
Mark Walker first came to Independence 30 years ago and is a taxpayer in the Oldtown District where his family has a 90-acre farm.
Walker said he has been a member of several private shooting ranges over the years and that he enjoys hunting, trap shooting and other shooting sports.
“I’m a firearm enthusiast,” he told the board.
Walker has a strong interest in the proposed shooting range, as his family has adjacent land.
Among numerous deficiencies Walker said he has found in the proposed location, the main two are the proposed site and that the range was proposed as a public facility.
“People not willing to follow rules at private shooting ranges go to public ones,” Walker said.
Adjacent land is within 250 feet of the backstop and Walker noted that last year he killed a deer at 1,000 feet.
So, “250 feet is lethal,” he said.
Additionally Walker was concerned that the property was too small for a shooting range and that stray bullets could easily reach adjacent property such as his family’s.
“My question is about public safety,” he said.
Barbara Moncrief retired to Grayson County for the beauty and peace and quiet.
“I’m not against a firing range in the right place,” she said, noting that after talking with members of the National Rifle Association she felt the location did not meet the requirements set forth.
“I love to walk through the woods… my grandchildren love to run and play in the woods,” Moncrief continued. “With a firing range as close as this will be to my home, all of these will come to an abrupt halt.”
Moncrief, a retired registered nurse, remembers early in her career a young woman who died from an accidental shooting. She never forgot that night and said it was “a bullet that was not supposed to be there.”
Robert Buchan considers himself a proponent of guns and said he is a life-long hunter who has practiced gun safety since a very early age.
“I can second everything I’ve heard tonight,” Buchan said.
In a county that is focusing so hard on economic development, Buchan questioned if the county leaders had considered the impact this shooting range could potentially have on the little economic hub in this area.
Buchan said the proposed range is within 2,000 feet of 106 properties – 43 of which have yet to be developed.
He added that three-fourths of a mile away is a campsite. He was worried about the impact on that local business owner’s site when campers are awakened by gunshots early in the morning.
“I urge the supervisors to take a walk out there yourself and go and look at what happens in that area,” Buchan said. “Really consider the impact it’s going to make to your county before you embark on this road.”
County Administrator Jonathan Sweet had mentioned earlier in the meeting, his administrator’s report, that the county is working with an engineering firm to design the proposed site, as well as working on required testing to determine if the site is suitable.
The NRA has offered the county a matching grant to pay for half the cost of the firing range.
Before a decision could be made, the proposed plans would have to go through public hearings at both the county’s planning commission and board of supervisors.