, Derry, New Hampshire

April 18, 2013

Musquash shooting concerns still irk residents

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — It’s not the usual hunting sounds that are the problem, it’s all about those who like to shoot for fun.

Town officials are still pondering how to handle continuing complaints from residents who hear target shooting in the Musquash Conservation Area.

Conservation Commission members were the latest to tackle the problem that continues to fire up residents who live close to the area and who are disturbed by the noise.

Commission member Mike Speltz said it has nothing to do with legal and responsible hunting.

“It’s all about the target shooting,” he said. “And, sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt.”

Complaints about gunfire are nothing new in town.

Residents have appeared before town boards previously, hoping something can be done to make the noise stop or at least be reduced.

Steve Homsey lives on Royal Lane. He told officials last fall that shooting makes him uneasy. The spring weather is making it worse.

“On a nice day, gunfire is heard,” he said. “Once the weather turns, it starts again.”

Officials say they can’t control anything that happens at the state’s Fish and Game site; it operates under state regulations. But, they say, they continue to take the concerns seriously

“We could do nothing with Fish and Game as a town,” Speltz said. “But that doesn’t stop people from out of town from coming to shoot at the Musquash.”

Londonderry police reported 27 complaints calls about shooting in the Musquash in the last few years and another 39 calls could be attributed to shooting complaints.

Police regularly patrol areas where shooting concerns are generated and watch for any dangerous activity.

Officials say most people are shooting in a responsible way, but there are those who take target practice a bit too far. That was people worried about stray bullets and where they may fall.

Town Councilor Tom Dolan said it may be time for the town to get legal advice on how to move forward on ways to help ease the shooting concerns and dangers.

“The town can’t make any local laws around noise coming from firing ranges,” he said. “There may be some obscure laws we’ll need to get legal advice on.”

Conservation officials said they could make recommendations to the Town Council on how to move forward.

Dolan said it would be important to also find out what other communities are doing to handle similar shooting problems.

“The town attorney can help steer us toward something legal,” Dolan said, “or you’re going down a dead-end path that you can’t get through.”

He also suggested talking to Londonderry’s state delegation for possible direction on any future laws that could be put in place concerning shooting.

Acting Town Manager and police Chief William Hart said safety information is posted in the areas where shooting occurs, offering ways to be safe with firearms and promoting courses in gun handling and ownership.

Concerns are still mounting, he said.

“We know there is a clear and present danger to our citizens using that area,” Hart said.

The issue is complex, Dolan added, since there are state laws in place.

“How do we navigate through the various rules and regulations of the state laws? That’s the hard part,” Dolan said. “But I don’t think it’s hard to convince people we have a safety problem.”

Conservation officials agreed to talk to legal counsel, then take the issue back before town councilors for more review on how to move forward.

All agreed it’s not the intention to punish anyone who is using those areas of town to shoot responsibly. Right now, the town is doing all it can within the confines of the law.