Task Force Recommends Musquash Target Shooting Ban

The Musquash Task Force voted 6-3 to include among its recommendations to the Town Council that the Town ban target shooting, skeet shooting and trap shooting in the Musquash and other town-owned conservation areas, unless at a facility approved by the Town Council.

Members Dan Watkins, Dana Coons and Lt. Gordon Joudry voted against the recommendation.

The task force considered several ideas to address the issue of target shooting in the Musquash during a Feb. 25 brainstorming session, including a total ban on target shooting on town-owned conservation areas, a season for target shooting so that other users of the Musquash would know when the shooting is occurring, and confining target shooting to the sandpit at the Faucher Road entrance or other shooting ranges in town, such as the Police Department’s shooting range.

Additionally, Joudrey suggested a possible compromise to shooting as opposed to an outright ban – to require target shooting be restricted in areas that are less than 200 yards from an occupied building, as well as prohibiting shooting up and down marked hiking trails and limiting firearms used to ones allowed for hunting.

Sgt. Jason Breen informed the task force the Town wouldn’t be able to open the police shooting range, given its entrance cuts through the center of Continental Paving’s quarry in Litchfield and owner Rick Charbonneau said he could not allow public access through a working quarry due to the inherent dangers and liability.

In regard to a season for target shooting, member Bob Saur said while it would generate limitations on target shooting, there would still be the issue of target shooting toward residences, and shots damaging town property.

“To me, yes this could be an option, but there will need to be other limitations as well,” Saur said. “That’s like creating a target shooting range and saying the Musquash is that target shooting range for this period of time.”

“For me, there’s no way I could take my kids out to a place where there’s target shooting,” member Randy McIntyre said. “A total ban is a slam dunk. The real question is, then do we go to constructing a half-million-dollar facility for people to shoot out there.”

 “What I’m disappointed to hear is that no one is willing to make the distinction between lawful responsible firearms use in the Musquash and unlawful, irresponsible use. The unlawful, irresponsible use is what’s keeping you out of there,” member Dan Watkins said, calling for greater enforcement in the area. “Why are you okay punishing me and other responsible users? I don’t think the ban is fair from that perspective. Let’s use enforcement to keep unlawful use out of there.”

“All I keep hearing is ban this, ban this. The responsible target shooters in town are paying taxes, they also paid for this land,” member Dana Coons agreed. “By the statutes and wording in the deeds, shooting is an authorized use. And now we only want ‘these’ people to use it, we don’t want target shooters to use it. Sorry, I pay taxes in this town, too. And I have every bit of right to use it as much as everyone else.”

A report completed by Sgt. Jason Breen concluded increasing enforcement efforts in the Musquash would prove cost prohibitive.

A single, four-hour block on Saturdays and Sundays (eight hours each week) would have a total cost impact of between $22,601 and $24,527 on the Town’s budget, Breen wrote in his report. Additionally, it would cost over $30,000 to resurrect the department’s mountain bike program, which would be used to conduct patrols in the Musquash.

“I’m not opposed to target shooting. I think we need to find a safe place for people to be target shooting,” member Mike Considine said.

“I understand we don’t want to penalize anyone and any restriction at all is going to penalize someone,” Saur said. “I have also talked to a number of target shooters in town, people out in the Musquash and gun owners in town, and without exception, and they are all taxpayers, they have said, ‘I would not go shooting in the Musquash.’”

Saur told the task force that gun owners told him they choose to shoot at firing ranges and in their own backyard because those are controlled areas, and it’s not possible to make the Musquash a controlled area.

“The responsible gun owners are already doing the responsible thing. They aren’t going shooting in the Musquash,” he said.

Saur additionally noted the task force’s charter isn’t to identify a safe location for target shooting in the Musquash, it’s to address the safety issue of target shooting within the conservation area.

“We’re tasked with studying the issue of target shooting in those specific areas and then making recommendations,” said Police Chief Bill Hart, who is serving as the task force’s chairman. “I read that as we look at all options, and we make all recommendations. Whether it’s a ban, but also a range, or nothing. I think we can have many recommendations, it’s up to us to do that. I think the charter is broad.”

“We all recognize the bad shooting out there, but there’s been no recognition of the good shooting. There’s a reason people don’t know where I shoot out there and haven’t heard it,” Watkins said. “Mike (Considine) is out there more than anyone, and he doesn’t know where I go. It can be done right.”

Watkins expressed concern that the recommendation to ban target shooting in the Musquash, but allow target shooting in a range approved by the Council, would “leave responsible firearms users in the lurch” while the Town considers building or establishing a location for target shooting.

Coons said it’s unlikely the Town will commit funds to building a target shooting range, and that establishing and maintaining such a facility would be very expensive.

Member Al Sypek suggested the task force could recommend the Town Council support permitting the use of the Faucher Road sand pits at the Musquash for target shooting.

“The facility doesn’t have to be a million-dollar range,” he said.

“This is a starting point to go through and determine other ideas and things the Town should consider,” Saur agreed.

Hart noted the task force will have the opportunity to approve additional recommendations related to a designated facility or properly bermed location for target shooting, as well as any other issues the task force deems appropriate to address.

The task force will likely present the Council with majority and minority reports for addressing the issue of target shooting in the Musquash.

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