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Triggering danger
Spotsylvania proposal to allow shooting in subdivision would set dangerous precedent.

Date published: 1/11/2013

AS Spotsylvania supervisors weigh an ordinance to allow shooting on lots larger than 5 acres, it's hard to get past the threat to safety the activity would pose or, frankly, to see the need. The basic right to bear arms is not at issue here.

Spotsylvanians have long experienced the friction that occurs when growth and changing times put old ways into conflict with new realities. Hunting remains not only a favorite pastime in the area, it usefully thins a deer herd that too often spills into the path of oncoming motor vehicles.

But the county's planned, platted subdivisions, no matter what their acreage, are designed foremost for residents who expect a safe and well-defined residential life. They anticipate a kind of curtain of security around their families. And they understand that a round fired from a gun doesn't know to stop at a property line.

In opposing the proposal, resident Victor Szabo noted that for supervisors to guarantee any measure of safety, they must be able to invoke a "magic spell that will cause a bullet to stop all forward motion when it reaches the property line." Indeed. Exactly five years ago, Spotsylvania deputies were investigating complaints of shotgun pellets penetrating a subdivision home during hunting season. The shot had been fired from a neighboring 308-acre parcel used by a hunt club. Clearly, no amount of acreage provides a failsafe buffer against shots discharged in the vicinity of residential lots and structures.

Hunters and shooting enthusiasts have long found safe and functional venues to pull the trigger, whether in the woods, on the farm, or on the shooting range. Why is it suddenly necessary to allow shooting in areas developed as neighborhoods?

Supervisors will take up the proposal again on Jan. 22. They should understand that subdivision residents deserve an assurance of safety that this ordinance simply cannot guarantee, no matter the acreage of the lot.