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Spotsy takes aim at shooting ordinance
Spotsy supervisors consider allowing residents to shoot guns in subdivisions with lots of more than 5 acres

Date published: 1/21/2013

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors is divided on a proposal that would allow residents to take target practice in some subdivisions.

Board members may vote at their meeting Tuesday on whether to legalize the firing of guns in subdivisions on lots of more than 5 acres. It's currently illegal to shoot in any subdivision regardless of lot size.

Two supervisors say they're undecided, so it's unclear if the proposed ordinance has enough votes to pass. Some residents have said they're concerned about safety and noise.

Supervisor Timothy McLaughlin said he supports the proposal and thinks it will be approved. It doesn't matter how big a lot is if somebody mishandles a weapon, said McLaughlin, who stressed that state law makes it illegal to recklessly handle firearms.

"We're getting hung up on the lot size, and that's really probably one of the last things that will be enforced on a negligent discharge" of a firearm charge, he said.

The county currently allows hunting on parcels of land zoned agricultural with at least 5 acres, as required by state law.

Most subdivisions in the county--such as Leavells Crossing and Holleybrooke--do not have housing lots as large as 5 acres, according to a draft report from the county.

Spotsylvania has 60 subdivisions where all lots are greater than 5 acres and another 87 neighborhoods, including Bloomsbury Farm Estates and the Estates of Chancellorsville, where some lots are more than 5 acres.

Supervisor Gary Skinner said he thinks it would be "foolish" for the county to allow shooting on 5-acre lots in subdivisions. He wonders if the board is trying to fix something that's not broken.

"We really didn't do bad with what we had in the past," he said.

COUNTY HAS OPTIONS

At a recent meeting, Skinner asked whether the county could require shooters in subdivisions to have backstops such as berms.

State law doesn't allow localities to require shooting backstops, regulate the caliber of weapons used or restrict shooting within a set distance from homes, County Attorney Jacob Stroman wrote in a memo.

The county could amend its noise ordinance to include firearms, but that would require a public hearing, Stroman said. Any changes to the noise ordinance would not affect existing shooting ranges.


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