2017-03-30 / Front Page

Most nearby communities yet to confront matter directly

Jamestown’s private target ranges make it an anomaly among its neighbors, as does the town’s desire to codify how they’re regulated.

While East Greenwich has an outright ban and Tiverton places some restrictions, several other communities put the responsibility in the hands of their police departments based on laws dating back generations.

East Greenwich passed an ordinance in 2003 banning the discharge of a firearm except for a handful of exceptions, such as police and military in the line of duty, hunting in certain areas and self-defense.

Several current officials were unaware of why the law was passed and town council minutes from the time did not specify a rationale for the ban.

Police Chief Stephen Brown said there is a town-owned range residents can use, but he’s never heard of anyone trying to open a private range.

Tiverton adopted an ordinance in 1967 that allows target shooting on private property by the owner or a guest with written permission from the owner. This activity is restricted to between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and must be a minimum of 500 feet from any dwelling. The law also says “all prudent safety measures shall be exercised to protect the public health.”

Police Chief Thomas Blakey said the only outdoor range he’s aware of is owned by the Tiverton Rod and Gun Club, but there are none at any private homes. While there have been noise complaints, he said there have been no safety concerns expressed about shooting at the club.

Ordinances in North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Narragansett and Middletown all put the onus of allowing private target ranges on the police chief. The chiefs also have the sole authority to impose any requirements they deem fit in their communities.

North Kingstown Capt. Paul Barry said he knows of only one private outdoor range that’s been approved since the law was enacted in 1974.

“It was sufficiently far enough away from anything that (the chief) gave it his OK,” Barry said.

The range is used by a limited number of people, and there have been no issues or complaints, he said.

“We don’t go out and check on it,” Barry said. “Once the area is deemed allowable, that’s pretty much it.”

Narragansett’s law has been around since 1986, and there have been no requests since he’s been with department since 1996, said Police Chief Sean Corrigan.

“We have a very strict noise ordinance and we’re so densely populated that I don’t think one would be successful and that there’d be any patience here for one,” he said.

Brian Peters, deputy chief of police in Portsmouth, said there has not been a request in his 19 years on the force of a law that’s been on the books since 1969.

If one was made, the resident first would need zoning board approval before the department examined the request further, he added.

Officials in Middletown could not be reached to comment on the town’s 1962 ordinance.

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