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Commissioners under the gun to pass shooting range rules

haywoodRules governing where commercial outdoor shooting ranges can go in Haywood County would provide security and peace of mind for rural residents who fear the intrusion of a gun range in their midst, but shooting advocates fear the proposed regulations are too prohibitive.

“You will never be able to open a shooting range in this county unless you are a millionaire,” said Eddie Cabe, a speaker at a public hearing on the proposed shooting range ordinance Monday night.

Currently, there are no rules in Haywood County governing where an outdoor shooting range can go or how it must operate. In an effort to shield communities from the ill effects of an outdoor gun range, Haywood County commissioners have proposed an ordinance to govern them.

Under the proposed rules, commercial outdoor shooting ranges have to be a quarter-mile away from any existing occupied buildings. 

“A quarter mile? There is no place in Haywood County you can legally build a shooting range anymore,” James Smathers said at the hearing.

However, supporters of the shooting range ordinance asked those in the audience to think about what it would be like to be bombarded with the noise of a shooting range next door.

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“This could go on continually all day long. People in rural communities need protection,” said Lisa Nelson.

The shooting range ordinance came about at the behest of residents in the rural Francis Farm community, an idyllic pastoral setting on the outskirts of Waynesville, where an indoor gun range has been proposed. 

“This could happen beside your house just like it is happening beside my house,” said Vicky Rogers, a resident of Francis Farm.

Francis Farm residents appealed repeatedly to the county to stop the indoor gun range being proposed in their community, but commissioners didn’t think an indoor range posed a threat to anyone’s safety or well being, and instead chalked up concerns to mere aesthetics and character — things they weren’t inclined to regulate for.

However, commissioners drew a distinction when it came to outdoor shooting ranges, which they felt could pose a health and safety risk for neighbors.

Other requirements in the proposed rules include a 6-foot-high fence around the entire shooting range, environmental precautions to prevent lead contamination, a 300-foot buffer from neighboring property lines and noise decibel limits. The rules call for safety precautions as well, such as warning signs around the perimeter, on-site staff during hours of operation, an alcohol ban and proper design to ensure wayward bullets are captured.

The rules would apply only to commercial operations, where the general public can pay to come shoot, and not to private gun clubs or friends that get together to shoot. 

While crafting an ordinance, commissioners imposed a 60-day moratorium on new commercial outdoor shooting ranges. Otherwise, there would be nothing to stop outdoor shooting ranges from rushing to open before the rules were crafted.

SEE ALSO: Draft rules for commercial outdoor shooting ranges

The county has another month to finalize the shooting range regulations before the moratorium expires.

Those with existing firing ranges will have to register their location with the county in order to be grandfathered in. 

Andrew Jackson, who regularly gets together with buddies to shoot on his own land, fears he could get caught up in the dragnet of the ordinance.

“We know how to do this. We don’t need a piece of paper,” Jackson said. 

Commissioners could adopt the shooting range ordinance as early as their meeting next Monday, April 4.


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