Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Neighbors Try to Close a New Hampshire Range

You'd almost think it was a conspiracy. So many times we’ve seen people move into an area where an established gun club operates. Then the newbies decide they can’t stand the sound of gun fire. They ban together and move heaven and earth to try to close down a gun club.

I read about one club in New Hampshire with this problem. It was in one of those free marketplace-type papers, The Broadcaster. I checked the Internet-tubes-thingy and I was surprised to see they were on the web (I have no idea why that would surprise me in this day and age, but there you are).

The paper wrote a surprisingly favorable story about a club that’s not going down without a fight. The Lone Pines Hunters Club has been in Hollis since the mid-1960s. The club itself is much older; founded in 1913 in Nashua, New Hampshire. Club members used the Hollis location without a problem until eight years ago when a group of new neighbors formed an organization called “Residents Defending Their Homes.”

Before I go any further, I will admit that the paper’s story is one-sided. The neighbors’ were not interviewed while the club president tells his side. So, keep that in mind as you read on.

The neighbors went to the Planning Board and eventually the board ruled against the club. In 2003 a court ruled that the board could require the club to develop a site plan. In 2005, all shooting stopped at the club until the plan could be approved and then implemented.

From roughly 2003 until now the club has suffered over 22 planning meetings and paid out a staggering $358,000 for engineering studies, fees, and everything else. In March, the Planning Board demanded a shooting demonstration with monitors stationed around the area to listen for and gauge gun shot noise. Few if any heard significant noise.

Club members are going to fight the court and the board. I don’t know if they’ll win, but I hope so. There are too few shooting places for too many gun owners. It also dismays me that this is happening in New Hampshire.

You see, my state has a range protection law that clearly supports shooting ranges. (The law is a quick read and a model for a well-written statute.) There's also a tradition of gun ownership and hunting.

There may be more to the story. In fact, the article passed over a possible pollution concern. Also, the range protection law was revised in 2004, so the neighbors may have found a loophole since closed.

But if everything in the story is accurate, I really hope the Lone Pines Hunters Club members are sighting in their guns for this fall’s hunting season.

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