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Posted: 01/23/13

Bruce calls for ordinance
on shooting ranges

Observer Staff Writer
      The ball has begun to roll for determining the future of firearm discharge in Bruce Township.
       The Board of Trustees voted 4-0 to investigate the creation of an ordinance that would regulate firearm discharge or shooting ranges in the township.
       Trustee Mark Falker was not present for the Jan. 16 meeting.
       The board also asked Supervisor Richard Cory to check on whether a shooting range at the center of the controversy is a home business.
       Last month, residents living near a shooting range in the Lassier Road area voiced their concerns about the range to township officials, fearing for their safety due to the proximity of the range to their homes.
       Additional residents living nearby, such as John Phillips, spoke up at the January meeting, saying they too were concerned.
       "My number one concern, obviously, is safety as the parent of a young child," Phillips said. "I don't want to see anything where the only time an action is taken is if an accident happens."
       Cory said the Michigan State Police (MSP) went to the site and asked the owner, Karl Kubler, to cease shooting activities. State laws don't allow for buildings to be within 450 feet of a range, and that the neighbor's buildings were within that zone.
       Kubler stopped shooting, which Cory said caused the township to take up the issue as opposed to it being settled in court.
       "We all have rights, but we all have to be safe," Cory said.
       The township has no ordinances controlling firearm discharge, meaning it defaults to state law. Trustee Paul Okoniewski said according to the law, a safety zone only applies to hunting and not to other firearm activities.
       He said having an ordinance could be good since it would provide guidelines for safe firearm usage and protect the township from legal action, but the township must be cautious in what it decides.
       "If you do something haphazardly, we could impact this whole township, every resident in it and/or put ourselves at risk of being sued," Okoniewski said.
       Clerk Susan Brockmann cautioned the ordinance would affect the entire township unless it was done by zoning.
       "Bruce Township is very much more rural than our neighbors to the south," she said. "We do have a lot of people that enjoy target practice shooting."
       She added the issue seems like a disagreement between neighbors, as the township hasn't received complaints about shooting activities from other areas.
       Trustees agreed to look into what neighboring communities have in terms of firearm discharge or firing range ordinances.
       Kubler said he was considering the construction of a personal shooting range that would face east instead of south.
       "If I move it 210 feet, I'm well far away from the 450 feet," he said.
       In response to the MSP, Kubler said he has received verbal confirmation from the attorney general saying the MSP doesn't have jurisdiction, and that he was filing a complaint against the trooper.
       MSP Lt. Mike Shaw said the MSP is not involved in the case since no charges have been filed. He said the MSP does have the jurisdiction over state laws, but it doesn't routinely check on shooting ranges.
       "That would be something that would have to be the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)," he said. "It would be up to the township to decide what a good shooting range is and if they want to have them or don't want to have them."
       Home businesses
       Cory is responsible for ordinance enforcement for the township, and said he would investigate the site and see whether it was a home occupation.
       Brockmann said home occupation ordinances require businesses to be inside a home and cannot infringe on a neighbor's rights.
       "At this point, I'm not sure that (Kubler's) ever come to us and said `I'm operating a home business,'" she said.
       Kubler said the only activity that takes place is qualification for carried concealed weapon certification.

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