The Warren County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday denied a request that sought to ban shooting guns in a rural neighborhood.
Supervisors voted 4-0 in favor of denying a request to amend and re-ordain the section of the county code pertaining to the recreational shooting of firearms. The request sought to add the Clear Back subdivision to the list of those neighborhoods in which the recreational shooting of firearms is prohibited.
Vice Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers, representing the South River District, made a motion to deny the request. Cullers voted in favor of her motion. Chairman Walter Mabe, representing the Shenandoah District, North River District Supervisor Delores R. Oates, and Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox voted in favor of the motion to deny the request. Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony Carter did not attend the meeting.
After the vote, Mabe said he couldn’t understand why people in the affected communities are not communicating with each other. Communication could have helped the communities avoid the conflict, Mabe suggested. The chairman agreed with opponents of the request who said people move to rural areas knowing that recreational shooting likely occurs.
Cullers said she visited a residence where recreational shooting took place and saw that it appeared safe. Cullers said she, too, lives in an area where she hears shooting.
At the public hearing, Rockland Road resident Bryan Dininno spoke against the proposal and said he wanted to address statements made at previous board meetings and in the media. Dininno said he trains firearms users, first on safety. He said he built a shooting backstop on his property and that he has no neighbors behind him. Dininno refuted claims that anyone has used a firearm on his property in a reckless manner or that shooting occurs daily. Dininno admitted to shooting for several hours but said he does not do so constantly.
Dininno also refuted a claim that he refused a request to stop shooting during a wedding held at the nearby golf course. Dininno said no one came to ask him to stop, otherwise, he would have.
Dininno said that false accusations of the firing of automatic weapons on his property created a dangerous situation. Federal law regulates the possession of machine guns, he said. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives keeps records of legally possessed guns. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office must sign off on any firearms transfers in the county, Dininno said. He said he does not possess any such weapons.
“What they’ve accused me of is the illegal possession of a machine gun and that leads to a 3 a.m., no-knock raid at my house by the ATF and, you know, I’ve been living in fear ever since I heard these accusations,” Dininno said. “The ATF abuses are well-known in the gun community and they’re not forgotten, and I can only hope the threat of death to me and my family was done through ignorance and not malice, and if you think I’m exaggerating I can give you a list of the ATF abuses that happen.”
Dininno gave, as an example, a “no-knock” raid in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13 that resulted in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
Rockland Road resident James Dininno, reading from a statement, questioned why shooting in the subdivision, after 30 years, became an issue. He said an increasing number of homes are being put up for sale and property owners are likely worried they won’t sell if shooting is occurring in the neighborhood.
“If you choose to move to a rural community, you will hear gunshots, plain and simple,” Dininno stated.
However, Malcolm Barr Sr., also a Rockland Road resident, spoke in favor of the request to prohibit shooting in Clear Back subdivision. Barr read from a statement and noted that recent gunfire reminded him that shooters were still nearby. Barr said he spoke mainly on behalf of his wife who suffers from cancer for which she receives treatment at home for two hours each day.
“The seemingly incessant gunfire close to our house in the past year or two, or three or whatever – I don’t know how long – disturbs some of these treatments, which we believe has kept her alive, along with the inevitable chemo and radiation sessions and clinical trials that cancer victims must face and that she has faced for more than a decade,” Barr said.
Barr said he and some neighbors have heard bullets ricocheting off what sounded like metal, but he said the residents’ request is not intended to be a diatribe against guns.
“It simply asks that those desiring to practice with firearms take themselves to an appropriately licensed place to do so and leave us to enjoy our rural environment where indeed silence is golden,” Barr stated.
The board also heard from other speakers who opposed the request.
Rockland Road resident James Harper collected signatures for a petition to go with the request. Harper read from a statement in which he noted he is a Republican and supports the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. Harper stated that there is more to the situation than the right to bear arms and cited an interpretation of the Second Amendment.
“I’m not sure the Clear Back subdivision needs a militia at this time unless Joe Biden wins the election,” Harper stated.
“For a minute, just think about sitting outside, like today, enjoying a beautiful day,” Harper went on to read. “Automatic gunfire starts. Bullets going into a metal target. Bang. Bang. Bang. Is this enjoying our First Amendment right? The answer is no.”
Harper stated that he is trying to sell his home and hearing gunfire is one of the reasons he wants to move. Harper stated that, while he supports firearms possession, users should practice shooting at ranges or other places, not in a residential neighborhood.
But Melanie Salins, of Murrays Drive, asked the board to deny the request.
“This ban would erode our freedom – both gun rights and property rights,” Salins stated. “Most of us who purchased agriculturally zoned property in the county did so because we wanted the freedom to live a certain lifestyle.
“To remove the right to shoot on one’s own land ruins that lifestyle that we bought into,” Salins went on to state. “If you want to live in an area that doesn’t allow shooting, then don’t buy in an area that allows shooting.”
Salins pointed out in a statement that of the 20 signatures from residents submitted in the petition, only eight properties lie in the Clear Back subdivision to which a ban would apply. Of the eight lots, only two are owned by the original owners and owners of half of the eight only recently moved into the neighborhood, Salins stated.
Rockland Road resident Susan Bowen spoke in favor of the request. Bowen said she and her husband run a cattle farm on Rockland Road. Bowen said she is opposed to the shooting she hears from her family farm. She accused opponents of the request of having no respect for her desire to live in a “peaceful and quiet community.” Bowen added that in her 75 years of living on the property she hasn’t heard the amount of gunfire coming from shooters as she does now.
Dan Murray, a former supervisor for the North River District, spoke at the hearing. Murray said he saw this request as an attack on Second Amendment rights and property rights. Murray said the matter is personal, with an individual who wants to sell a property.
“This is a travesty,” Murray said. “This should never, ever have to come to this point.”
The neighborhood didn’t bring the request to the county in his eight years on the Board of Supervisors, Murray said. The former supervisor then asked Mabe to abstain from voting on the request because the person behind the petition supported the chairman’s election campaign. Mabe responded by admitting that the person behind the request supported his campaign but that he made no promises to him in exchange for that support.