Parting shots?
Delafield council denies bid to reopen gun ranges; decision violates state law, says gun club’s attorney

By Josh Perttunen - Freeman Staff

Dec. 3, 2013

Members of the audience who would be affected by the reopening of the Hartland Sportsmen’s Club’s gun ranges in Delafield were asked by a resident to stand during a portion of Monday’s Common Council meeting, where the bid to reopen was eventually denied
Josh Perttunen/Freeman Staff

DELAFIELD - The Common Council unanimously denied the Hartland Sportsmen’s Club’s bid to reopen its gun ranges in the city, saying Monday that such a use is no longer compatible with the surrounding area.

“I’m bothered by the proximity of the gun club to neighborhoods and businesses and roads,” said Alderwoman Jackie Valde. “I’m bothered by what seems to be a disconnect. (With) decades of the club being there, I didn’t hear a single citizen’s support. If you’re such a good neighbor, why are (the neighbors) so unhappy?”

John Barker was one such neighbor, voicing safety concerns that his business directly north of the club could be in danger. 

“Very clearly, every one of those ranges points directly at my property, directly at the building,” he said. “Several point directly at the patio. When they say they will be shooting at 2.5 degrees and shooting at eight degrees could clear the range, that’s not much of a difference.”

Jeremy Levinson, the club’s attorney, said that the city’s decision is a violation of state law. Up until the club was shut down in 2010, the council allowed the gun club to coexist with many of these same neighborhoods and businesses.

“You can’t shut down a gun club just because you’ve allowed development to occur right up to its boundaries, and now you want it to leave,” Levinson said.

“We’ve tried to work with the city,” he added. “And they’ve been willing to play along as we addressed every single safety concern. With all of those concerns addressed, we now we see their real reasons for denial - and we’ll have to consider other options.” 

Recognizing that development could squeeze out gun ranges in Wisconsin’s rural areas, the state Legislature developed a bill to protect them, Levinson said.

The ranges were closed nearly three years ago - after a stray, spent bullet from the facility struck a pregnant woman dining outdoors at the Delafield Brewhaus. Since then, Levinson said, the club has reinvented itself with new physical safety measures at the site, new standards and rules and a range officer program for oversight of shooters.

Alderman Tim Aicher said that though the club has had various presentations to prove safety was foremost on its members’ minds, they were offering adjustments right up until the end. Though the club said this was a demonstration of its flexibility, Aicher saw this as something else.  

“There was still wet paint on the proposal after three years,” he said.