Committee weights rules for indoor shooting ranges

SALEM – Councilman Rick Drummond said he’ll be working on language for proposed legislation to allow indoor shooting ranges for both commercial and residential properties.

The Rules and Ordinances Committee, which Drummond chairs, discussed the issue at length Tuesday night with nothing definite decided. He said he would put something in writing to discuss at a future committee meeting.

“There are ways to do this safely, whether commercial or residential,” he said.

The committee had discussed the idea of indoor shooting ranges earlier this year. Drummond confirmed that he was approached several months ago by a resident who wants to install an indoor shooting range for personal use in his home. No commercial ventures had approached the city regarding a shooting range, but he said they would probably be successful. He also said if city council makes changes, the commercial ventures would probably begin.

Current city law prohibits the discharge of any firearms in the city limits, with police and military the exception. At this point, no one can open a shooting range or have one in their home.

Drummond said they previously discussed the concerns they would have to consider if penning an ordinance, such as safety, noise, smell and distance from certain types of facilities, such as schools, daycares and churches. They discussed some of the guidelines that would be necessary.

Councilman Clyde Brown, who sits on the committee, said perhaps they could start with residential, to allow a person to set up a shooting range in their basement for their personal use, and then expand to commercial shooting ranges. He said it wouldn’t be cheap to install one in a basement that follows all the necessary requirements.

Fellow committee member Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey said she wasn’t “real keen on the whole idea,” interjecting that she’s not against guns, but she was concerned about having shooting ranges in residential areas because of noise issues and the people who might come and go. She said she might be swayed if it’s restricted to below ground and personal use, but she said she was leery of the coming and going part with weapons.

Drummond pointed out that people can come and go right now and carry weapons legally. He said it would be no different than if someone came to his house for dinner and had a gun in their car. If a city resident goes to a shooting range now that’s out of town, they’re transporting their gun from their home to that range.

He agreed that a residential shooting range should be below ground, and perhaps rules should be more stringent for a residential range. Their main concerns would be keeping rounds inside and keeping noise down, which would be the case if a range is built correctly.

City resident Scott Cahill said they should look at the constraints and require an engineered plan for shooting ranges. He explained that engineers are required to meet a certain level of expertise and seal their plans. Their livelihood is on the line when they stamp their drawings.

Dickey said her concern is to make it fit the city and what the city wants to be. She said if there’s a set aside purpose in a house, that resident will have people come to the house for that purpose. If there’s a shooting range, people will come to use the shooting range.

Cahill said he’s not picturing people having gun parties. To have that level of interest to have an engineered range installed in a house, that type of person probably isn’t going to be associated with a gun party. He echoed what Brown said about the expense being high for a properly engineered shooting range, adding he couldn’t afford it.

In addressing Dickey’s concern about the transporting of weapons, Councilman Brian Whitehill, who was in the audience, said firearm laws are already in place regarding the carrying and transporting of guns.

Both Brown and Drummond said they would support indoor shooting ranges in both commercial and residential areas, while Dickey said maybe commercial and industrial, but not residential.

The issue will be discussed again at a future meeting.