CRAIG COUNTY – A nearby resident’s complaint to a Craig County Board of Supervisors’ member about noise from a shooting range on National Forest land has riled up local gun enthusiasts.
But Craig County leaders say they are not asking to have the National Forest Service close the Potts Slope Shooting Range, built in 1994. They want to know what the Forest Service could do to make the range a better neighbor, Supervisor Martha Murphy said this week.
Eastern Divide District Ranger Cindy Schiffer is scheduled to be at the supervisors’ meeting which starts at 5:30 p.m. this Thursday, Feb. 7, to explain how the range operates and what possibly could be done to buffer the noise.
Meanwhile, local gun enthusiasts are up in arms about what they perceive as a threat to Second Amendment rights, and some plan to be at Thursday’s meeting to speak during the “Hear the Public” portion of the meeting.
Craig County Republican Party Chairman Jordan Labiosa started a running dialog on his Facebook page Feb. 1 when he posted a section of minutes from the January supervisors’ meeting. On Feb. 4, Labiosa called on people to “Stand up with the Craig County GOP in opposition to shutting down the Gun Range!”
In a telephone interview that same day, Labiosa, who is 19, said, “If you live in Craig County and the sound of guns is annoying to you, you should probably leave Craig County.”
Monday night, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League sent a message to members asking them to send thousands of emails to Craig supervisors to oppose closing the range, and asked people to “pack the audience with gun owners.”
The shooting range came up at the January supervisors’ meeting, when Simmonsville District Supervisor Murphy brought up concerns she’d heard from someone who lives in the Potts Mountain District near the range off Rt. 311, she said. The resident said the noise from the range went on at all hours, 24 hours a day, she said, and was disturbing neighbors with noise and trash.
In a telephone interview on Feb. 4, though, Schiffer said the range is supposed to be closed from dusk until dawn, and is signed that way, “with periodic patrolling.” No one has contacted her in her Blacksburg office about noise at night from the Potts Mountain site, she said.
“Most of the feedback we get from the range is positive. They appreciate having a range without having to go to a private gun range to go shoot.”
According to board minutes from the January meeting, supervisors asked Craig County Sheriff Clifford Davidson about the gun range noise – which the sheriff said he said he can hear from his home on John’s Creek – and that he believes people that use the range are mostly from outside Craig. Supervisors decided to ask Ranger Schiffer to attend this week’s meeting.
Republican Party Chairman Labiosa said the party’s vice chairman, Jesse Spence, routinely attends supervisors’ meetings. See Labiosa’s letter to the editor in this week’s Feb. 6 issue of The New Castle Record.
Carl Bailey, the supervisor who represents the Potts Mountain District, said in a phone interview on Feb. 4 he has not had any residents contact him about noise at the gun range.
And he has no intentions of asking the National Forest to close the range, he said.
“Lord, no. I’m a very avid hunter. I appreciate having the shooting range being as close to me as it is. Not everybody has that availability.” Bailey added he believes “maybe the Forest Service should have some other shooting ranges put up in the county so they wouldn’t have to go so far to get to one.”
He added, “Maybe Frances Hall Road (also in National Forest land area) might be a place where they could come out of Giles County.
Bailey said he has not heard any shooting from the range after dark. “It is during daylight hours,” he said.
In the telephone interview with The New Castle Record Monday, Supervisor Murphy said she is not asking for the range to be closed down, “but if the hours could be limited, if that is the main objection from the folks that can hear the noise.”
Ranger Schiffer said Monday, “Shooting ranges provide a safe, controlled environment for target practice and I have no plans to close the range. I’m attending the meeting at the board’s request and am happy to discuss our management intent and practices with all concerned.”
She added, “Sound carries and there is more noise when the leaves are off the trees and there is cold air. There is not a whole lot we can do about it because of the terrain, but we can look at planting some conifers,” Schiffer said.
She said she has not had any complaints about the Potts Mountain range. “Sometimes we get calls about the Blacksburg Shooting Range in Montgomery County near Pandapas Pond. The shooting range is across Rt. 460 and that’s the noise they’re hearing.
“Once people understand National Forests are open to hunting, they understand why we would provide that.
Especially now, people have heightened awareness of gun rights,” said Schiffer, who has been the ranger for the Eastern Divide Ranger District since 2001. Her office and her home are in Blacksburg.
Craig County Administrator Richard Flora on Monday said, “I think there is a misconception. The word is out there that the county wants to close the shooting range down and that’s not correct. What supervisors are asking is if there is anything that could be done to help the noise,” Flora said. “No one wants to close it down.”
Murphy said she believes “We asked Craig County Sheriff Clifford Davidson to patrol a little more often, and verify for us if it is a nuisance or if it is under control. It is beneficial to have a shooting range set up in the county. I’m sure hunters are using it in a manner it is designed for,” she said. “But the nuisance is something to pay attention to. Maybe it’s being used for some other purposes that it is not intended for. We’ll wait and hear from the sheriff’s office after some time.”
For a summary of the Feb. 7 Craig County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, read the Feb. 13 issue of The New Castle Record.