Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Driven by unsafe firearm use on river bars and other public areas, the county’s Board of Supervisors has advanced an ordinance that bans target shooting outside of private properties.
Supervisors approved the introduction of the ordinance at their July 10 meeting. The ordinance doesn’t apply to lawful hunting and prohibits target shooting at beaches, dunes, river bars and other public areas.
Also prohibited is shooting within a half-mile of any highway. The penalty for violating the new law is a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in county jail.
The ordinance does allow target shooting in public areas under “safe shooting standards” that include firing exclusively toward 20-foot tall earthen backdrops.
Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mike Fridley said the county already has an ordinance prohibiting firearm use in the Mad River area from Hammond Bridge downstream and the new one is crafted from it.
Fridley told supervisors that the ordinance’s emergence is directly related to unsafe conditions in the Fernbridge river bar area. But Fernbridge isn’t the only area dealing with the issue.
Supervisor Estelle Fennell said she’s also received complaints about it. “We’re talking about a recent phenomenon and people who do not know how to live rurally and respect their neighbors,” she continued. “It’s unfortunate that we have to do this because it’s takes away some of the freedom that people have been able to enjoy but it’s addressing a real need.”
Speaking as a citizen during a public comment session, county Public Works Director and Alton resident Tom Mattson supported the ordinance, saying, “It’s very unsettling to hear a bullet fly by your head while you’re walking your dog along the river.”
Several Fernbridge area ranchers said they and their employees been dealing with the dangers of being exposed to stray bullets.
No one spoke in opposition to the ordinance.
“Thank you guys for your patience on this,” Supervisor Rex Bohn told the ordinance’s supporters. “A few bad apples create a lot of problems for the people that aren’t.”
Supervisor Mike Wilson suggested that the ordinance should be more comprehensive. “We do have constituents – at least I do – that are concerned about neighbors discharging firearms in an unsafe manner and this seems to just address it on public property,” he said.
He recommended expanding the ordinance to include target shooting on private property that endangers neighbors.
“You can call the Sheriff’s Office if think your neighbor’s shooting in an unsafe manner and we’ll come out – I’ve been to many of those calls,” Fridley said.
Saying that the new law is “a good first step,” Wilson joined a unanimous vote to introduce the ordinance. It was scheduled to be adopted the board’s July 24 meeting.