Author’s note: This column first appeared in the Clarion on Sept. 23, 1993. It has been edited slightly for brevity. — LP
One advantage of living outside a city is that you can hunt and shoot in your own backyard, right?
Sometimes, yes. Other times, maybe. Often, you shouldn’t.
Most of us who live “in the country” do so for one good reason: We can afford to own more land, which — we hope — will give us more peace, quiet and privacy than we’d get in the city.
Because we choose to live on the fringes of civilization, we pay a high price. Some of us have to heat our homes with wood, fuel oil or electricity. We have to drive more miles than city folks do, so we pay more for gas, we wear out our vehicles faster, and we go in ditches more often. But these things are the price of peace, quiet and privacy, so we accept them.
Trouble is, that acre we bought in Kasilof, North Kenai or out Funny River Road was part of a subdivision of 20 or 30 lots averaging about an acre in size. Since we moved in, a bunch of other people had the same idea. Now, most of the lots have houses on them.
When I first moved onto my “country estate,” I thought nothing of seeing a moose hunter walk by on the road, some 50 feet from my home. I shot pesky squirrels off my roof, spruce hens out of my trees, and sighted in my hunting rifle in the driveway. Lately, however, I’ve had to change a few habits. I no longer run outside with my shotgun when I hear a squirrel climbing the wall, looking for a home in my insulation. I run outside with my slingshot.
Which brings me to the main purpose of this column, backyard shooting ranges. I can’t say I’ve never set up a target behind the house and tried to hit it with my .22 pistol, but I don’t do it anymore. Not that shooting behind my house isn’t reasonably safe. However, I no longer shoot behind my house because I don’t want to encourage my neighbors to shoot behind theirs. I’m a safe shooter, but I don’t know about them or their guests. I might have a safe backstop, but I don’t know about theirs. I limit my target practice to shooting my .22 during daylight hours, but I have no control over what or when they shoot.
No law prevents me from safely shooting in my growing neighborhood, but common sense does. If I like my neighbors, I do them wrong by disturbing their peace and quiet and by worrying or scaring them. If I dislike my neighbors, I’m going to dislike them even more when they call the state troopers about the shooting coming from the house next door, “where the crazy guy lives.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not proposing some new regulation or change in the existing statutes that would make it illegal to discharge firearms outside city limits. Existing laws already cover unsafe discharge and brandishing of firearms, and civil court action is always available to those who are damaged. What I’m saying is that, as country subdivisions develop, the original inhabitants must sooner or later change their habits, especially their shooting habits.
Shooters who disregard the feelings of their neighbors are acting against the best interests of all other shooters and hunters. The last thing we need is more people who are against guns and hunting.
People who shoot on their own “country estates” won’t like this column. Some of them won’t like it at all. But their neighbors will.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.