Lawsuit threats nix gun safety ordinance drafted after stray bullets hit Glen Harbor

Vernon. Some say the proposed ordinance is about averting tragedy in residential neighborhoods. Others say it’s anti-gun and a Second Amendment violation.

Vernon /
| 27 Nov 2021 | 06:01

A draft ordinance regulating gun ranges was pulled from the agenda after Vernon councilman Harry Shortway received threats of lawsuits if the township approved it.

At the Nov. 15 council meeting, Shortway said some people were looking to make the ordinance — drafted after stray bullets hit properties in the Glen Harbor section of town — a Second Amendment issue.

“This is not a Second Amendment issue,” Shortway said. “I think I’m safe in saying everyone on the council is a gun owner, and we support the Second Amendment. But the Second Amendment doesn’t protect your use of that weapon.”

He said the ordinance was never put in place to hurt the Cherry Ridge Gun Range, which he called a well-organized and safety-minded organization.

“What people don’t realize is there is no state certifications or licensing to firing ranges, at all,” Shortway said. “It’s also not a protected right under the Right to Farm Act to target shoot. We have to do due diligence when we go forward with this.”

Up to the next council

Several Glen Harbor residents were disappointed that the ordinance was pulled.

Rick Hoffman said two houses were struck by bullets because of a gun range set up on a Lakeville Road property. He said he and his neighbors are concerned that something “tragic is going to happen,” because anybody with enough space can set up a gun range in any proximity to a neighborhood.

“We’ve narrowly avoided a tragedy because we have a lot of playing the neighborhood, and they were playing in the neighborhood when the bullet came through the woods or ricocheted out of the area and struck a home just over one of my neighbor’s heads,” Hoffman said.

Francine Vince stressed that the dropped ordinance was about safety and not an “anti-gun” ordinance.

“If I was at a shooting range, I would want to be one thousand percent sure that my round would land safely,” she said. “I can’t imagine any shooter at a private range feeling confident discharging a weapon and not knowing where that round will land, and that it could land in a neighborhood where children are playing outside.”

Glen Harbor resident Ed Specht said the gun range hasn’t been active lately, but that when it was, people wouldn’t let their kids play outside on Sunday afternoons out of fear for their safety.

Shortway said the fate of the ordinance will be decided by the next council, which will be sworn in on Jan. 1, 2022. Patrick Rizzuto, Natalie Buccieri, and Brian Lynch won the Nov. 2 general election, unseating two incumbents, council vice president John Auberger and Andrew Pitsker. Councilwoman Toni Cilli didn’t seek election.

“It’s going to be up to the next council because it’s going to take that long at least to get it done,” Shortway said.

“If I was at a shooting range, I would want to be one thousand percent sure that my round would land safely.” Francine Vince