2017-04-06 / Editorial

Target range vote ramifications vast

While addressing his new constituents during a speech in 1774, British Parliament member Edmund Burke made his case for representative government versus the notion that elected officials should merely be delegates.

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion,” Burke said.

Elected officials always have faced that quandary, and it’s one the Jamestown Town Council faces Monday. That’s when almost 2.5 years of conversation and previous attempts to possibly regulate target shooting is expected to come to a head during a public hearing. There are two proposed ordinances: one would ban the activity while the other would limit shooting to compact zones, in which the state bans target shooting.

In an unscientific web poll we posted this past week, 87 percent of respondents said the town should do nothing about the activity. The council must decide if they want to eschew the two ordinances and leave things status quo or adopt one of the ordinances.

If the council chooses to ban shooting, it’s making a statement that Jamestown no longer is a rural community but, instead, a suburban bedroom town. That previous sense of the island will be lost to nostalgia, and what has been felt tacitly by many residents these past few generations will have been unequivocally stated and codified. That also would run contrary to the town’s comprehensive plan, whose opening words intone “protect Jamestown’s rural character.”

There also are enforcement issues and the potential for a lawsuit by target shooters that could arise if a ban is implemented.

Yet, if the council believes there are inherent dangers by leaving the target ranges in place, they have a moral obligation to act.

By imposing the compact zones, or doing nothing, the council fails to alleviate both the safety concerns raised by some residents and the potential for a liability lawsuit if someone is injured.

While normally we favor referendums so the people’s voices can be heard in the greatest numbers, in this case we side with Burke and urge the councilors to use their judgment, carefully deliberate the matter and do what they believe is in the best interest of our home.

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