EDITORIAL: Shooting ranges don’t belong in the Town of Grafton

The Town of Grafton’s shooting problem has achieved a revolving status that brings to mind Yogi Berra’s legendary redundancy “deja vu all over again.”

The Town Board has discussed and acted on irresponsible use of firearms time and again, and yet the issue persists. Now it has come around again and the board is discussing it again and is poised to act—again. Deja vu indeed.

It is obvious that shooters are not getting the obvious message: In much of the Town of Grafton, shooting guns is a nuisance and a safety threat. Yet they persist.

Town officials are hearing about it from residents. The complaints are not about random shots, but sustained firing of high-powered rifles in what amounts to private shooting ranges.

“The problem is not the guy who sights in his rifle,” Town Chairman Lester Bartel said. “It’s three guys that come out with AK-47s on a Sunday afternoon shooting 300 to 500 rounds.”

The board dealt with the problem in the past by establishing a no-firearms-discharge zone. In March, it decided to include two additional areas of the town in the zone. Then it decided to appoint a citizens committee to study the problem and recommend a solution.

In one of the many discussions about the problem at Town Board meetings, the trustees were cautioned to be mindful of “shooting rights.” In fact, such rights do not exist.

Americans certainly have a right to own guns. That was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark interpretation of the Second Amendment in 2010. But Americans do not have the right to shoot guns wherever they please. Government lawmakers, including the Grafton Town Board, have the right to say where they can shoot.

With every year that passes, the Town of Grafton seems to need more of such restrictions. Shooters may pine for the day when the area consisted mainly of farm fields interrupted by some untilled natural areas and a few farmhouses and barns. But that day has passed into the realm of nostalgia and now the town is in transition from rural character to what might be called country-suburban.

The growth of subdivisions is inexorable and fast moving. A sprawling retail center is a close neighbor of the town sitting on former town land. Scores of children play each weekday on the grounds of a daycare facility in the town. Little League baseball fields at the edge of the Village of Grafton are virtually surrounded by town land. Bullets from rifles used in the shooting instances that provoked residents’ complaints can travel for miles.

To be clear, hunting is not the issue. Some areas of the town remain suitable for hunting, which goes on under strict limits imposed by the Department of Natural Resources on the days and times that hunting for deer, wild fowl and upland game birds is allowed.

In April, the Town Board considered an ordinance that amounted to a ban on shooting ranges and defined the behavior that raised the ire of residents as constituting shooting range operation.

The draft ordinance contained other sensible measures, including holding property owners responsible for shooting on their land and requiring a firearms-discharge permit for shooters other than the property owner.

Those restrictions are on hold, but they provide a framework for board action after the citizens’ committee makes it report.

Bartel recently offered the board his opinion that if the town government doesn’t act, complaints by new residents who came to enjoy countrified living in the town might reach a volume that could lead to the entire town being declared a no-discharge zone.

The surest way to bring that on is for gun aficionados who aren’t getting the message to continue blasting away in their own versions of shooting ranges and annoying and scaring town residents.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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