Town-wide discharge prohibition necessary
Now more than ever gun ordinance regarding the discharge of firearms should be clear and promote community safety. Even though I am not a hunter, I have many friends and family members who hunt and own guns. I support their right to bear arms and to hunt. The beauty of Vermont, compared to other places in America and the world, are Vermonter’s responsible gun use and ownership. I believe that there are locations even within Vermont that we need to consider safe zones and prohibit firearms discharge. Therefore, I am in agreement with former Essex Police Chief Brad LaRose statement prohibiting firearms discharge in the entire Town of Essex. As our community grows, we need to evolve and promote areas prohibiting firearms discharge as well as safe hunting areas.
Limited hunting window an acceptable compromise
We are residents of Essex Junction and we have a strong opinion about the proposed gun discharge ordinances being discussed by the selectboard and members of this fine community. First of all, we thank Max Levy and his colleagues on the select board for tackling this issue. We appreciate the opportunity to give input electronically. We also appreciate the challenges involved in trying to reach reasonable compromises when people have strong feelings on this issue.
We just wanted to add our two cents to the discussion.
We use the Indian Brook Park as hikers. We often bring our dogs and young grandchildren and we appreciate the value of town park land. We strongly believe that this park must be a safe haven for hikers. With all due respect to gun owners and hunters, the safety of hikers is more important. If we need to stay out of the park during rifle/bow deer hunting season, to allow for deer herd management, that will be acceptable. However, at other times of the year, this park should be considered a no hunting – no shooting area. We support as broad a “buffer zone” as is necessary to reasonably protect users of the park.
Richard and Carolyn Smiles
Selectboard must address firing ranges
I applaud the selectboard’s effort to revise the outdated firearms discharge ordinance, but it unfortunately omits an essential component — firing ranges. Firing ranges generate a tremendous amount of noise — ask anyone that lives nearby — and there is always the ever present risk of a ricochet or accidental discharge. The density of the town has changed, and the town needs to recognize that landowners need to use their land in a way that does not intrude upon the serenity or safety of their neighbors. Just as you cannot blast your stereo system without disturbing your neighbors (and without violating the Town’s noise ordinance), you should not be permitted to disturb the serenity of your neighbors by blasting high caliber rifles. Firing ranges should not be permitted in residential areas.
Strong support for ordinance changes
I am writing to express my strong support for changes to the present ordinance regarding the discharge of firearms in and around Indian Brook, Saxon Hill and the Blue Area. I know that the population has greatly increased since the ordinance was last updated and I appreciate the board trying to ensure greater safety standards for people and animals against accidental shootings by hunters. I have been enjoying Indian Brook, with my two beloved dogs, for 10 years and hope to continue to do so without fear of being hurt.
Joanne E. Nelson
Town shooting range may increase safety
I commend the Selectboard and the chief of police for considering making changes to the firearm discharge ordinance. Whereas I believe that hunters and users of Indian Brooke and Saxon Hill areas can achieve a compromise that let everybody enjoy these areas, I am more concerned by “wild” ranges. As we all know, this practice has already taken a life in Essex. When an AR-15 or any other gun is discharged on a private property outside of the fire discharge ordinance zone and without the proper safety measures, neighbors and hunters are at risk from ricochet and stray bullets. As a coach and range safety officer of the U13 biathlon program at the Ethan Allen range in Jericho, I do not believe many individual lots meet the safety requirements of a range. I urge the Selectboard to not lose track of this issue. One important step in addressing the danger posed by ranges on private properties may be the creation of a shooting range. It won’t solve all the issues I heard at the last meeting but it will offer a reasonable and possibly attractive alternative for anyone who wants to shoot for “fun”.
Shooting ranges have no place in residential areas
I am thankful that you are reexamining the Gun Ordinance for our neighborhood, the Blue Zone, as well as Indian Brook and Saxon Hill. My family has lived in the Blue Zone for 21 years and has seen many new homes constructed here in recent years, exponentially increasing housing density. Many of these new houses have been permitted by the Essex Planning Commission as cul-de-sacs reaching far into woods and meadows from the main roads. However, in the last few years shooting ranges have been created in our increasingly dense neighborhood where the high caliber and semi-automatic guns being used are extremely loud, so much so, that I can’t hold a conversation in my own yard without shouting. I’m afraid to walk in the further reaches of my own land when these guns are being discharged. What if there were a ricochet or accidental discharge? How do the rest of us neighbors know if these ranges have a safe target and protection? I feel it is a matter of time before, once again, someone is hurt or worse, by a stray bullet from a home shooting range in the Blue Zone. I feel hunting and gun ownership deserve a place in our society, as do civility and not interfering with one’s neighbors’ right to peace and safety. Shooting ranges do not belong in residential areas.
Selectboard discharge proposal a fair, common-sense compromise
Throughout my 13 years of living in Essex Junction, I have greatly enjoyed many fun times spent at Indian Brook with our dogs and young children. I am highly in favor of making changes to the present ordinance in the areas surrounding Saxon Hill and Indian Brook regarding the discharge of firearms. I find what the Selectboard proposes to be common-sense and reasonable as we see the population density increase. While I understand the concerns that this is an effort to take away guns, it is about ensuring safety for our whole community in these two areas through limiting discharge of weapons.
Shooting should only be allowed when hunting
I recommend that the Essex VT firearm ordinance be changed to protect the tranquility of our community while respecting Vermont wildlife management traditions. I support changing the ordinance such that hunting is still permitted but discharge of firearms not for the purpose of hunting is prohibited. Why the change? A very small minority of our neighbors choose to operate shooting ranges their homes. One was recently started a few doors down, the homeowner uses it for 3-5 hours on most weekend days and shoots hundreds of rounds each session. The sound level from this activity is very high, way beyond the point that it would violate our noise ordinances. There is currently no means for his neighbors to get an acceptable reconciliation with our current statutes. I therefore recommend that the firearms ordinance be modified to disallow firearm discharge on Brigham Hill Road except when actively hunting.
Majority of residents want no change
Despite the opinion of Patti Davis and Mark Redmond in the August 28th edition the overwhelming majority of residents who participated in two public forums, PlaceSpeak, Selectboard meetings and a petition with 486 signatures, recommended “NO CHANGE” to the firearms ordinance. This reflects the recommendations presented by the Firearms Task Force in December 2009.
Both Indian Brook and Saxon Hill Forest are valued assets and should be managed for varied recreational activities. In fact, the 2018 IBF Management Plan specifically states that deer hunting is crucial to prevent over browse conditions. Current restrictions in IBF have worked well since the firearms ordinance was established. There is no factual basis for change. Hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts have co-existed there for decades without incident.
With regard to providing a buffer along our roads, Vt. Fish & Wildlife Regulations already provide that “A person shall not take or attempt to take any wild animal by shooting a firearm, muzzleloader, bow and arrow, or crossbow while on the traveled portion of any public highway (class 1, 2, 3, or 4), nor within 25 feet of a class 1, 2, or 3 public highway as designated on a town highway map”.
The current ordinance prohibited area already encompasses high density areas of development. When viewing the Town Zoning and Future Land Use Maps the areas outside of the current ordinance boundary are either agricultural, conservation, low density housing or floodplain. According to the Town Plan “development shall occur in areas suitable for growth in a compact manner as opposed to scattered development” and “the Town Center is a focus of concentrated growth and community life”. The Community Development Dept. explains “the rural areas in Essex are not expected to be dense areas going into the future. The bulk of future population will be in such areas as the Town Center where there is public infrastructure, services and transit”. Further expansion of the boundary is unwarranted and would only result in unintended consequences of denied access to private land for recreation.
There is common ground to improve safety for hunters, shooting sports enthusiasts and the general public. What was recommended by the Task Force in 2009 is true today. A Town initiative providing education, community outreach, and proper signage would create a greater awareness of firearms, hunting seasons and shooting boundaries. Couple that with a properly constructed shooting range where people could receive firearms education, training by certified instructors, and maintain proficiency. It would encourage those with backyard ranges to opt for the safe environment of a supervised range, thereby, increasing safety and reducing noise. Finally, a place where our law enforcement can train. These initiatives are all good for our community.