UPDATE: Wood County Firing Range Discussion Continues

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UPDATE 2/7/2014 10:20 AM

Keep it simple, but detailed.

Wood County Commissioners talk gun range regulations with a member of a committee chosen to draft them.

The problem is that gun firing ranges aren't all like the Sundowner Range, which was closed due to complaints from nearby residents.

Some are indoors and some involve other types of firing, such as archery.

The committee is studying laws in effect in other communities, along with National Rifle Association guidelines for practice firing ranges.

A public hearing could take place soon.


UPDATE 1/27/2014 4:20 PM

Keep it simple or dot the i's and cross the t's?

When it comes to regulating gun ranges, the Wood County Commission would like a little bit of both.

While the Commission could be headed to court over the indefinite closing of the Sundowner Gun Range, it's also trying to draft a series of regulations to make sure the issues over that property don't happen again.

An independent committee right now is crafting recommendations to the commission for firing ranges.

Two of the three commissioners believe the new regulations shouldn't be complicated.

But the commission president adds they should provide specifics about where ranges should be located.

He's also looked at standards for gun ranges in other states.

"I thought they were very good," says Commission President Wayne Dunn. "Between them all, I think, if this committee takes these, looks at them, and decides what we need in this community, and rough-develops something for us to consider, I think we're doing a pretty good program.">

The commissioners agree they should follow NRA guidelines.

This all comes in the aftermath of complaints about the Sundowner Range, and its closeness to a residential subdivision.

UPDATE 1/16/2014 4:25 PM

Still in effect.

The Wood County Commission extends a cease and desist order on a local gun range.

That order came last month as a result of nearly two years of complaints about the location of the Sundowner Gun Range.

The order could be lifted, however, if the range's owners get an evaluation of the site from the National Rifle Association's technical assistance team.

"The cease and desist order will remain in effect until such time as the evaluation has been provided to the commission, and that the Sundowner range has complied with the terms and conditions of that evaluation," says Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton. "The commission further voted unanimously that it will pay for the cost of that evaluation."

The range's owners recently filed a complaint with the county charging civil rights violations as a result of the cease and desist order.

For that reason, the commission is declining to make any further comment on the gun range issue.


UPDATE 12/30/2013 5:00 PM

A committee is being formed to recommend new regulations for Wood County shooting ranges.

That's in the wake of complaints of noise and too many stray bullets from the Sundowner range, just outside of south Parkersburg.

Commission President Wayne Dunn hopes that committee will be as diverse as possible, with people representing local gun ranges, residents and the National Rifle Association.

Owners of other firing ranges have been concerned the regulations will be too restrictive to them, even though they're not part of the problem.

Those new rules could include noise reductions and the distance of future ranges from homes.


Update: 12/23/2013 5:40 P.M.

Issuing a "cease and desist" order against one operator was just the first step.

The Wood County Commission now wants to enact comprehensive rules for the operation of shooting ranges.

But that's a concern for owners of other gun ranges.

The operators of a range on route 47 Monday voiced those concerns to the commission.

They're afraid regulations aimed at complaints about the Sundowner range will have an impact on their operations.

"If something happens through the commission to deal with Sundowner," noted Jim Carey, a member of the Fort Boreman Rifle Club, "our neighbors out on our range might say, ' We ought to bring complaints that range is awful out there', and that's what my concern is."

"We don't have anything, and we have a problem. If we had something in place, this probably would not have occurred," Commisison President Wayne Dunn responded. "So it's just protecting the community in the future, having the guidelines through which people can establish ranges in a safe an effective way."

For the past year and a half, residents near the Sundowner gun range have complained not just about the noise, but about bullets apparently fired from there which have landed too close to their homes.

The commissioners want to hold a public meeting before putting into effect a set of county regulations.

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UPDATE 12/16/2013 4:30 PM

A cease fire at the Sundowner Gun Range on Gihon Road.

But this may not be the end of the story for a nearby neighborhood.

Monday the Wood County Commission zeroed in on safety concerns.

The commission says the gun range near south Parkersburg should close while it works on comprehensive laws for the entire county.

There could be a public hearing in a couple of weeks.

What the commissioners want to do is put in place regulations which would apply to any gun range in the county, including the Sundowner, which has been in the news nearly two years.

Residents of the nearby Wildwood Subdivision have complained several times in the past year and a half, not only of noise from the range, but of bullet holes they've found in their residences from guns they believe have been fired from there.

There's a question as to how current law addresses that problem.

"You can't shoot a single shot within 500 feet of a dwelling, but we have a rifle range within 600 feet of a dwelling," says Wood County Chief Deputy Shawn Graham. "While it's not against code, it doesn't seem like a very good idea."

The commission agreed to issue a 30-day "cease and desist" order to the range's owners.

During that time, it hopes to work on a solution to the problem.

The range's owners did not attend Monday's meeting, but told us last year that the number of complaints about the range is small compared to the number of shots fired there in the more than a decade it has been in business.


UPDATE 12/16/2013 12:40 PM

A much-talked about gun range is about to be shut down - at least temporarily.

Residents of the Wildwood Subdivision, just outside Parkersburg, have complained the Sundowner Gun Range has been a nuisance and, in some cases, a danger to them.

The Wood County Commission Monday morning agreed to issue a "cease and desist" order to its owners, but for just 30 days, while new regulations are enacted regarding gun ranges in general.

The range's owners have said they meet all requirements, maintaining weapons fired from their range are too far away to affect the Wildwood neighborhood.

Residents Monday presented more photos to the commission of damage they say was caused by bullets fired from the range.


More than a year after they raised objections, some Wood County residents still say a nearby firing range poses a safety hazard.

They showed the commission bullets from that firing range they say have landed on their property and, in some cases, struck their buildings.

The residents of the Wildwood Subdivision say barriers the owners have installed to keep that from happening don't do the job.

"It is the belief of the homeowners of Wildwood that the earthen backstop at the gun range on Gihon road is not of an adequate height to contain bullets fired from the rifle range," said Steve Mahaffey, Homeowners Association President.

The commissioners say they tried to take action last year to shut down the range but were told by prosecutor Jason Wharton they could not legally do so.

They say the residents' best remedy to do that is through the courts.


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