ESSEX, Vt. – The Essex Selectboard on Monday rejected changes to a town ordinance that would have required owners of private shooting ranges to register with the town and purchase liability insurance.
Selectboard Chair Elaine Haney said that the proposed changes would present legal challenges for the town, which be required to oversee the ranges to ensure they met the new regulations. PACIF, the town’s insurance provider, expressed concerns about the town’s liability if “it was aware of an unsafe range but did nothing to improve the safety.”
“I think there are other ways to address safety that are on more solid legal ground and that have precedent,” Haney said. “I do not support this section remaining in the ordinance.”
Discussion around changes to private shooting range regulations dates back to 2008 when John Reiss, a retired St. Michaels’ College professor, was struck and killed by a stray bullet from a neighbor’s backyard shooting range.
A vote was initially scheduled for the selectboard’s August 19th meeting, but was postponed after members wanted more time to gather information on how the changes could impact the community.
Mia Watson, Reiss’ granddaughter, was in attendance as the ordinance change was dismissed. She expressed her frustration over the failed measure.
“This is a debate between people wanting to target shoot for recreation and people wanting to enjoy their parks and backyards without worrying that they or their children will be shot and killed,” Watson said. “To act that these two desires are completely equivalent is absurd.”
Many residents who voiced concerns on the changes in August were on hand Monday, this time commending the selectboard.
“As folks in this town who value hunting and shooting sports, the onus is on us to make good choices and be good neighbors,” said Chris Adams. “That is hopefully what will preserve our rights as long as we possibly can.”