...in Tennessee (of all places). www.theleafchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041003/SPORTS/410030359&SearchID=73186027593874County to consider shooting restrictions
by: Owen Schroeder Landowners in Montgomery County may soon find their rights to shoot firearms on their property limited to no more than five days per month and no more than 200 rounds per day if the County Commission approves a proposal recommended by the Regional Planning Commission.
The proposal was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission this past week and the County Commission will hear public comments on the proposal Monday night at their scheduled meeting. They will vote on the proposal Nov. 11.
There are currently no county zoning regulations concerning the operation of public or private shooting ranges in Montgomery County, and this has resulted in many complaints from county residents concerning uncontrolled shooting.
A recent example involved an organization named Lightfighter Tactical that purchased a 54.6-acre tract of land in the Woodlawn area and constructed a firing range where automatic weapons, high-powered rifles and pistols were being fired almost every day.
The organization called their operation "The Forge" and was planning to build a "multi-story shooting house, a world class 360-degree movement-to-contact live-fire range, and lodging facilities for students and out-of-state instructors."î Activities were to include events such as tactical rifle, fighting knife, tactical pistol, dynamic tactics, unarmed fighting, force-on-force scenarios and home/self-defense tactics.
The operation was closed down by county officials, but they realized that a county ordinance was needed to define the parameters for the operation of public and private shooting ranges in the county. This resulted in the zoning proposal approved by the Planning Commission.
The proposal places outdoor shooting ranges into two categories: non-exempt public or private outdoor firing ranges and exempt personal firing ranges.
A non-exempt public or private outdoor firing range is defined as "an outdoor facility designed for the purpose of providing a place on which to discharge ammunition in an amount and with a frequency that exceeds the limit on exempt personal firing ranges."
An exempt personal firing range is "a location where a person may engage in target firing or plinking (at non-game targets) with legal firearms on his own property or on the property of another with the consent of its property owner or lessee for periods of no more than three consecutive days per month or five total days per month, not exceeding 200 rounds of ammunition per person, per day."
The definitions for both types of ranges include small arms such as rifles, handguns and shotguns.
Hunting and turkey shoots do not fall within the definitions of a firing range as long as they occur only within defined hunting seasons or occur only with a frequency not exceeding that allowed for exempt personal firing ranges.
If a landowner wants to shoot on his or her property (not including hunting) for more than five days per month or shoot more than 200 rounds per day, they would be classified in the non-exempt category and they would be required to comply with more restrictive provisions of the ordinance that would include:
Range must be located in an Agricultural District.
Obtain a range permit from the Zoning Board.
Establish a 1,000-foot no-fire buffer zone along their entire property line.
Could only shoot during the period 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Construct a range to the minimum standards as described in the latest edition of the Range Source Book of the National Rifle Association.
Have no lodging facilities or overnight accommodations on the premises.
Noise levels could not exceed 70 dBA at the property line.
Place warning signs at 100-foot intervals around the property line.
Have a site plan prepared by an architect, engineer, or surveyor licensed by the state of Tennessee that would include:
A map of existing trees, buildings, streets, utilities and contours at a minimum of 5-foot intervals.
Proposed traffic circulation, access and parking areas.
A landscape plan that provides for a buffer strip along all property lines.
A noise abatement plan.
A Best Management Practices program that contains, at a minimum, provisions for recycling, vegetation management, soil amendments, storm water management, and a plan for containment of spent ammunition.
The provisions of the new proposal, if approved, would be enforced by the County Building and Codes Department on a complaint-received basis.
Discussions with Keith Lampkin, planner with the Planning Commission, and Steve Miner, County Building Commissioner, determined that Montgomery County would be the first county in the state to place such restrictive measures on personal shooting.
Miner is also concerned that the new regulation could place his codes enforcement personnel in danger. "They will be trying to enforce zoning codes against armed people in out of the way places and that could be a dangerous situation for them,"î Miner said.
There is also some confusion about the provisions of the new regulation in regards to the shooting restrictions on exempt personal firing ranges. Lampkin believes that as long as a person shoots less than 200 rounds per day on his land there is no restriction on the number of days they may shoot per month.
Others who have read the provision in the proposal don't see it that way.
"This proposal says that I can only shoot a maximum of five days per month on my private land,"î said David Adkins, chairman of the Clarksville Area Friends of the National Rifle Association. "This proposal, as written, is nothing more than a veiled form of gun control in Montgomery County. I can own a gun, but I can't shoot it on my private property."
There is even a bigger issue with the proposal. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation is considering the purchase of a 462-acre tract in Montgomery County for the construction of a shooting sports complex which would eventually be given to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The TWRA, as a state agency, is exempt from the provisions of county ordinances, however, the TWRF, as a private non-profit corporation is not and it is not clear what impacts the new proposal will have on the purchase plan.
Montgomery County Wildlife Officer Jereme Odom said that the TWRF wants an exemption from the provisions of the proposal.
"The TWRF will purchase the land and own it until it is paid off, at which time they will donate the land to the TWRA for use as a wildlife management area,"î Odom said. "We have already received more than $313,000 in local contributions for this purchase and we are expecting it to be completed as planned."
The Commission meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Monday night on the third floor of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Clarksville. It is the last item on the agenda and this will be your only opportunity to express your opinions on the issue.
Originally published October 3, 2004