vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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No shoot zones could see changes

Supervisor Gary Snellings says his neighbors in the rural Hartwood District have set up “shooting ranges” all around his house. There’s one in front, and on each side. And on weekends, the noise is particularly noticeable.

“To say the least, it’s very annoying, there’s no question about that,” Snellings said. “Especially on Sunday afternoon, when all three of them are going at the same time, I feel like I’m in a war zone.”

But he says he’s most concerned about safety. “I don’t believe that most of these folks really understand what’s around them. They know they’ve got 3 acres, or they’ve got 5 acres, but in many cases, they don’t have a berm set up, they’re just shooting at a target. And if they miss the target, that bullet can … just keep going.”

At Tuesday’s public safety committee meeting, Snellings asked the county attorney and the sheriff to review what the state code allows the county to regulate, and to possibly update the map of no-shoot zones. (Find the pertinent parts of the county code dealing with weapons at Chapter 26.)

When the prohibited zones were set, they concentrated on areas of growth in north of Courthouse Road, as well as in southeast Stafford. ”We’ve far outgrown those areas,” Sheriff Charles Jett said.

Jett said monitoring shooting is a “workload issue.” Last year, the sheriff’s office received 250 complaints of shots fired. That number would likely be much higher, but once people realize the sheriff’s office can’t do much to prohibit the shooting, they don’t make other calls, Jett said. Many people call because a gun shot triggers a fear of degrading quality of life.

Jett said he did not know if there was enabling legislation from the state that would let the county create noise ordinances related to shooting.

The county attorney will review the state code, and bring the matter back to the committee at its next meeting.

A Hartwood resident said Tuesday he hopes that residents will be involved in giving input on the matter. Some are intimidated to complain. “Shooting is different from a lot of other things,” he said.