By Karen Kennedy
The Carmel Plan Commission will review Tom Willingham’s Point Blank Gun Shop application for a new facility at 969 Range Line Rd. on Sept. 17.
Previous Current reports have addressed the issues faced by neighbors of the Point Blank Gun Range in Blue Ash and nearby Montgomery, Ohio. Concerned citizens who live within a mile or less of the range have repeatedly appealed to their city council, local police officials, attorneys, the media, and Willingham in an effort to resolve the issue of noise from the gun range that results in an “unbearable” situation for them.
In response to the concerns voiced to the Blue Ash City Council, Steve Pollack of Montgomery received a letter dated Aug. 15 stating that both Montgomery and Blue Ash have conducted “numerous investigations and tests concerning the noise and have concluded that the noise level did not violate any ordinances.” The letter stated that there is “nothing further the city can do from an enforcement perspective.”
In other words, these Ohio citizens have absolutely no legal remedy for a situation that has strongly affected their quality of life. (This is an opinion unless someone is quoted or paraphrased.)
How is This Possible?
There is a state statute in Indiana and Ohio that specifically exempts gun ranges from civil or criminal liability as a result of noise pollution from their operations. (see sidebar.) Mayor Jim Brainard believes that the statute refers only to pre-existing ranges. An attorney who serves as a source for the Current disagrees.
“On the face of it, this statute could be used to argue that a new range would be exempt if they were not violating any laws or ordinances in their construction or operation,” the source said.
This law was recently put to the test in Marshall County, Ind. in Yates v. Kemp. In this case, two neighboring families brought suit against their neighbor because he created a shooting range in his backyard. In the initial court proceedings, it was determined that he was not liable for his neighbors’ noise claims under statute IC 14-22-31.5-6. However, on appeal, the judgment was reversed because the disturbances do fall under the definition of a “nuisance,” which differs from a noise ordinance violation. As of publication time, the appeal is still pending.
Guy Relford, an attorney specializing in the second amendment, also concedes that there is gray area in the statute. Relford is involved in the new 15-lane indoor gun range, Tim’s Shooting Academy of Westfield, scheduled to open in November.
“Our range is in an industrial area, surrounded by warehouses. I’m still very surprised at the Carmel location they are proposing,” Relford said.
“The noise issue is a non-starter,” said Carmel City Council President Rick Sharp, the only member to address the subject. “I have every confidence that Mr. Willingham will be a good neighbor. It all comes down to design. If they make a commitment to abide by our noise ordinance, then they have to abide by it, whether the state law exempts them or not.”