proposed change to the Montgomery County (Clarksville TN) ordinances which would have the effect of severely limiting what land owners can do with their property and even how many rounds they could discharge on their own property within a month's time. The first meeting on this legislation is MONDAY night OCTOBER 4 2004. The final hearing on the proposed change is set for MONDAY night OCTOBER 11 2004.
If you have contacts in Montgomery County, please see if you can help defeat this proposed ordinance.
Here is the proposed ordinance:
1. Under Article II, add the following to definitions:
"Non Exempt Public or Private Outdoor Firing Range: An outdoor facility
designed for the purpose of providing a place on which to discharge
ammunition in an amount and with a frequency that exceeds the limit on
Exempt and Personal Firing Ranges as defined below. This definition shall
include small arms, including rifles, handguns and shotguns. Hunting and
Turkey Shoots are not considered to be included within this definition of a
firing range so long as they are only occurring within defined hunting
seasons or are occurring only with a frequency not exceeding that allowed
for Exempt Personal Firing Ranges."
"Exempt Personal Firing Range: A location where a person may engage in
target firing or plinking (at non game targets) with legal firearms on his
own property or on the property of another with the consent of its property
owner or lessee for persons of no more that three (3) consecutive days per
month or five (5) total days per month, not exceeding 200 rounds of
ammunition per person, per day."
2. Under Article IV Sections 18-AG Agriculture District, Subsection C.
Uses permitted on review, add the following:
"Non Exempt Public and Private Outdoor Firing Ranges meeting the
requirements set forth in Article Ml, Section 17."
3. Under Article III, Supplementary Regulations and Modifications, add
the following new Section:
"Section 17-Non Exempt Public or Private Outdoor Firing Ranges:
The following standards shall apply for Non Exempt Public or Private Outdoor
1. Non Exempt Public or Private Outdoor Firing Ranges are permitted
only in AG Agricultural Districts as a use permitted on Review by the Board
of Zoning Appeals.
2. No shooting station or target area shall be allowed within one
thousand (1,000) feet of any property line, public street or dedicated
3. Discharge of ammunition shall be limited to the hours between 9:00
A.M. and 6:00 P.M.
4. All such ranges shall be designed to at least the minimum
standards as described in the latest edition of the Range Source Book of the
National Rifle Association.
5. Non firearm type explosive devices such as grenades and mines are
6. The retail sale of firearms and ammunition on the premises is
7. Lodging facilities, of any kind, for overnight accommodations on
the premises are prohibited.
8. Sale or the consumption of alcoholic beverages on site is
9. Noise levels measured at the property line where the facility is
maintained or, in the case of teased land, at the property line of any
leased parcel shall not exceed 70 dba.
10. Firing range facilities shall be designed to contain all of the
bullets, shot or any other debris on the range facility.
11. Warning signs meeting the National Rifle Association (NRA)
guidelines for outdoor firing ranges shall be posted at one hundred-foot
(100) Intervals along the entire perimeter of the firing range facility.
12. A site plan prepared by an architect, engineer, or surveyor
licensed by the State of Tennessee shall be submitted to the Board of Zoning
Appeals showing at a minimum the following:
a. Information necessary to assure compliance with the minimum standards
b. Existing trees, buildings, streets, utilities and contours
at minimum 5-foot intervals.
c. Proposed traffic circulation, access-find parking areas,
d. A landscape plan providing a buffer strip along all property lines not
abutting a public street or dedicated street easement,
e. Proposed sewage disposal facilities, water lines, fire hydrants, all
proposed structures and range areas,
f. A noise abatement plan,
g. Any additional reasonable requirements and modifications as deemed
h. Submission of a Best Management Practices program that contains, at a minimum, the following elements: recycling, vegetation management, soil amendments, storm water management, and a plan for containment of spent ammunition. Whenever regulations contained in this section are different from regulations contained in other county resolutions, the most restrictive regulations shall prevail. No gun club, gun range or skeet range shall be operated in the county unless the range or skeet range is in compliance with all county, state and federal regulations. Exempt Personal Firing flanges are expressly excluded from having to meet the requirements of this section.
In response to a TFALAC alert on this topic, some of you have responded back in amazement at the alert about Montgomery County (Clarksville) attempting to restrict private property owners from shooting on their own property. Uniformly, people oppose the restrictions and want to know what "we" are doing. Two common questions I am receiving are
1) Do we need to pass a pre-emption law at the state level? and
2) Are other counties doing this?
Tennessee already has a pre-emption law at the state level (TCA 39-17-1314 see below). It has been on the books since the mid-1990's. It however does not appear to limit county zoning and land-use ordiances, which is what the Montgomery County effort appears to be.
Other counties have already enacted outright bans which preclude private property owners from shooting on their own property. In Davidson County, it could be argued that certain individuals in my neighborhood are violating local land use laws in some back yards when they go outside and shoot their BB-guns. Take a look at the Davidson County ordinance below.
This raises a very difficult discussion topic.
How do we, as individuals as well as an organization of firearms owners, approach the legislature or even local governments on this topic? Certainly, it appears common sense that someone owning 25, 50, 100 or more acres should be able to shoot on their own property whenever they want and even have friends come over. But, what about someone with only a few acres? What if those acres (regardless of the size) are now surrounded by upstart treeless subdivisions full of $250,000 homes of suburban commuters?
What if the firearms being used are .22 rifles versus 50 caliber Barrett's?
Does it make a difference if it is a shotgun, pistol or rifle?
What about berms and other projectile entrapment issues?
How do we determine or argue that 5 or 10 acres is "too few" but 25 or more is "open season"?
Â§ 39-17-1314. Construction of laws; preemption
a) No city, county, or urban-county government shall occupy any part of the field of regulation of the transfer, ownership, possession or transportation of firearms, ammunition or components of firearms or combinations thereof; provided, that the provisions of this section shall be prospective only and shall not affect the validity of any ordinance or resolution lawfully enacted before April 8, 1986.
[remaining portions omitted]
My experience with TFA and as an attorney who has worked on several of these cases makes it clear that the future fight is with the issue of range
protection and the attack on existing and future ranges through the use of
local zoning ordinances. We made an effort to address that issue in the
2004 range protection law which I wrote and which was passed after much
work. That law protects existing ranges and those in existence for 1 year
or more. What it does not necessarily address is whether a local government can restrict a property owner from discharging a firearm on private property that does not have a clearly established shooting range.
For example, Davidson County has had such an ordinance since at least 1996 whcih prohibits even firing air guns within the county. Davidson County's ordinance is written to prohibit air guns, spring guns (those toys kids get with plastic bullets), etc.:
11.12.080 Discharging weapons.
A. It is unlawful for any person to discharge or fire any firearm within the
urban services district of the metropolitan government at any time, and
within the general services district of the metropolitan government during
For the purposes of this section, the word "nighttime" means that period of
time beginning at thirty minutes after dusk and ending thirty minutes prior
B. It shall further be unlawful for any person to fire or discharge any air
gun or air pistol, spring gun or spring pistol, or other device or firearm
which is calculated or intended to propel or project a bullet, pellet, air
or similar projectile, whether propelled by spring, compressed air or gases,
explosive or other force-producing means, within the urban services district
of the metropolitan government.
C. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, nothing in this
section is intended to prohibit the discharge or firing of any firearms by
1. While in the lawful performance of duty as an officer of the law; or
2. Within a legally established shooting range or shooting gallery where
precautions have been taken to insure the protection of human life and
3. Lawfully engaged in hunting, as permitted by the state, upon any property
located within the urban services district of the metropolitan government;
4. Legally defending person or property. (Ord. 99-1775 Â§ 1, 1999; Amdt. 1
with Ord. 99-1649 Â§ 1, 1999; Amdt. 1 to Ord. 96-295, 6/4/96; Ord. 96-295 Â§
Now, the issue becomes is what position do we take with local governments and/or the legislature. I can certainly attest that there are numerous areas of Davidson County where shooting a shotgun, airgun or other firearms on the property would pose no risk of harm. However, in my neighborhood, many of the lots are 1/4 to 1/2 acre. My rear neighbor, an elderly man, is regularly out in his back yard with a .22 rifle shooting at squirrels. That frankly makes me a little nervous with kids in the yard.
Where do we draw the line?
What type of legislation would we propose at the state level to prohibit or
limit the local governments from passing zoning and land use ordinances?