Guns? Will People Be Allowed To Go There And Shoot Guns?

More than 100 irate Las Vegas newcomers crowded into a meeting room at the Aliante Public Library on the evening of Feb. 13, jeering, heckling and throwing things at elected officials and Clark County staff invited to explain plans — 24 years in the works — to build a 900-acre shooting park in the empty desert north of town.

“Get it out of here! We don’t want it!” shouted resident Jeff Peters, who 14 months ago moved into a home in Carmel Canyon, a new subdivision about a mile from where the $64 million facility will be built.

The residents complained home-builders did not tell them the shooting park was planned when they bought their homes.

Jennifer Knight, a county spokeswoman, pointed out the county has held 18 public meetings since 2000 in which the park was discussed. Notices were sent to houses within a nearly 4,000-foot radius of the site in late 2005, and signs were posted on a road near the property, she said.

Those plans and meetings received prominent coverage in this newspaper — and not in the “fine print.” What else was the county supposed to try — sky-writing?

Don Turner, the county’s shooting-park expert, says noise from the facility must be kept below 57 decibels; that additional berms and other barriers to muffle the noise will be built if the noise signature is measured above those levels in populated areas.

It’s understandable that families who have just invested a sizeable nest-egg in purchasing a new home may be concerned about anything they fear could impact their resale values or quality of life. The residents may have a bone to pick with developers or real-estate salesmen who failed to disclose information about the long-planned shooting park — though notice requirement typically involve 700-foot or quarter-mile proximities, with “caveat emptor” increasingly applying at greater distances.

But anger and foot-stomping at this point are misplaced for several reasons.

First, this is Nevada. Private ownership of firearms and participation in the shooting sports are long-standing traditions. More guns are sold and registered in Nevada, per capita, than any other state. More than one third of Nevada households are armed. As John Lott has demonstrated in his book “More Guns, Less Crime,” this is a good thing, holding down violent crime rates when compared to cities including Los Angeles and Chicago (major sources of the current influx of the benighted to the more prosperous Silver State), where criminals remain armed but self-defense arms and training have been banned for victims.

As those who buy homes near Nellis Air Force Base and then complain about the jet noise are often reminded, so should those who object to the faint and distant sound of safe target shooting be told “Welcome to Nevada: That’s the sound of freedom.”

Not that the noise from the shooting park is likely to be anywhere near as obtrusive as that experienced by those who live near the air base. County officials point out there’s already a skeet range at Floyd Lamb Park, half the distance from these homeowners as the planned new facility. Number of noise complaints to date? None.

In years past and even today, it’s been accepted practice for local residents to drive out to any number of draws and box canyons within sight of the city to do their target practice. Development of the shooting park has been underway for two decades because far-sighted officials foresaw a day when the sprawl of homes toward the foothills would render those old shooting patterns less safe. If these homeowners were to succeed in getting the shooting park killed, have they considered the alternative? Would they really like thousands of local shooters to return to their traditional plinking in the draws and gullies on which these new homes now encroach — without any of the added safety provisions being designed into the new park?

Millions have already been spent shifting the actual ranges further to the north.

Shooters themselves stand to lose quite a bit from this new arrangement. Since opening of the shooting park will almost certainly be used as an excuse to finish banning outdoor shooting almost anywhere else in the valley, they stand to lose their remaining freedom to drive out into the hills and shoot anywhere they want. Shooting in a park with other people requires range discipline for safety purposes — perfectly sensible, but still a restriction compared to shooting alone in the desert.

Inevitably, faced with added hassles including lines on weekends, some parents will quit the sport. More kids will reach their teen years without having learned the skills necessary to defend the nation. Furthermore, despite promises to the contrary, how long will it be before shooters are charged higher and higher entrance fees, accompanied by inspections and notation of their weapons by serial number — all “just for safety sake,” you understand?

All these compromises shooters will make in the interest of safety. Yet these home-owners object to the prospect of some outdoor noise at a level lower than that of the trucks on the nearest highway.

The suspicion lingers, enhanced by comments at the Feb. 13 boo-fest concerning the risk of people “driving through our neighborhood with guns in their cars,” that the concern here is not noise at all, but simple hoplophobia — fear of arms — on the part of new arrivals who have not yet figured out that Nevadans maintain a proud tradition of being armed for their own defense and the defense of the nation.

If the protesters liked it so much better in the nests of crimes they came from, full of cowering victims disarmed by force of law … why did they leave?

Alternatively, Nevada does offer plenty of quieter locales. Ione is pretty.

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