Isle of Wight supervisors enact target shooting restrictions

Published 10:52 am Monday, February 26, 2024

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After debating the matter for nearly a year, Isle of Wight County supervisors enacted new restrictions on target shooting Thursday, Feb. 15.

The new firearms law makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to discharge a gun in any way that “will, or is likely to” result in the bullet crossing a property line, unless permission has been granted by the adjacent landowner. County Attorney Bobby Jones said the county has received several complaints from homeowners who reported finding projectiles on their land.

An ordinance in place prior to the unanimous Feb. 15 vote had made it illegal to fire a gun within 1,000 feet of a “platted subdivision” of six or more homes, which was frequently unenforceable.

“It’s an invisible line, and unless the deputy is a title examiner and a surveyor, it’s very difficult to discern where that is,” Jones said.

The change repeals the 1,000-foot rule and instead expands a restriction prohibiting bullets within 100 yards of a school or park to any “dwelling of another” or public gathering. Under the new law, a projectile found by law enforcement within the boundaries of an adjacent landowner would be sufficient evidence to prove a violation.

The enacted change allows exceptions for law enforcement, justifiable defense of life or property, and commercial farmers permitted under state law to kill deer damaging their crops. Shooting blanks to signal the start of an athletic competition or patriotic display also is exempt.

The ordinance further requires anyone engaged in recreational target shooting to have a backstop behind the target that will adequately contain the projectile, and bans target shooting between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.

A public hearing ahead of the vote drew two speakers, Isle of Wight County sheriff’s deputy Paul Nash and Carrsville resident Volpe Boykin, both of whom said they supported the change.

Boykin, who called the ordinance a “common sense safety measure, said his remarks were on behalf of Virginia Citizens Defense League President Phillip Van Cleave, who’s gun rights group in 2019 led a statewide push urging localities to preemptively declare themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in response to new gun laws Democrats proposed after gaining control of the General Assembly during that year’s elections. The term referred to governing bodies that declared their refusal to enforce gun laws they deemed in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which reads, “A well-related Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

“VCDL totally supports this ordinance,” Boykin said of Isle of Wight’s new ordinance.

Supervisor William McCarty, who’d chaired the Board of Supervisors in 2019 when Isle of Wight declared itself a “constitutional county” rather than “Second Amendment sanctuary,” said he too did not see the new restrictions as a gun rights infringement.

“This is in no way an attack against the Second Amendment freedoms of our citizens,” McCarty said.