DALTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Safety concerns over stray bullets flying from a Muskegon County gun range were under the spotlight Monday night in Dalton Township.
The FOX 17 Problem Solvers have been following this since August. The Grasmeyer Gun Range has been unwilling to make changes, and the township is running into legal hurdles to force them to follow township ordinances.
Monday night the Dalton Township board made a decision that neighbors who live near the gun range say is not enough, but the board says it’s a step in solving the problem.
The board passed a consent judgment, which board members say will hold the gun range accountable in front of a court if or when it violates regulations. What is contained in the consent judgment is not available to the public yet. The judgment has to be signed by the courts, the township and Grasmeyer before it can go into effect.
Some neighbors who have lived near the gun range for years said they are tired of this fight, and they want a resolution.
“I think the bottom line is all of you (board members) should be concerned about the safety of our community. If bullets are flying all willy nilly then who’s to say when someone is going to get hurt?” said Norma Reinhart, who along with many others at Monday’s board meeting spoke their minds about the threat the gun range poses to their safety.
“The neighbors and the neighborhood are beaten down, which is really sad. I mean neighbors won’t go outside when the shooting is going on. Even on a nice day, they stay inside. They won’t bring their children out. It’s just really sad,” said Brian Sukup, who also got up to speak his mind to the board.
Monday night the board registered a unanimous vote for the consent judgment. For the most part, board members claimed it was the right thing to do, with a step in the right direction. A few reluctant board members said this was really the only choice in trying to make the community safer.
“It’s a big win for Grasmeyer’s and a loss for the neighbors,” said Sukup.
Grasmeyer’s owners were not present for the meeting Monday night. Dalton Township Supervisor Jerry McIntyre said the whole problem with regulating the gun range is that the township ordinances don’t have any legal teeth behind them. For example, even the tickets and fines that the township tried to assess to the gun range on account of violations are “laughable.”
“I believe it (the consent judgment) could work well, because now it takes it out of the planning commission’s hands and puts it in the court’s hands,” said McIntyre.
McIntyre said the group has spent $27,000 this month alone on a lawyer to try to figure the mess out. They are hoping with a consent judgment that the gun range will have to answer to the courts for code violations. The township hasn’t been able to do much without concrete proof. For example, a few neighbors have had close calls and were able to locate the bullets that almost hit them, and were able to hand them over to the police as evidence. However, for a lot of other neighbors that see or hear bullets go past them, finding the bullet can be tough when it ricocheted off something.
Neighbors contested the decision at the meeting, because they are skeptical this will hold the gun range accountable.
“I think the thing is they are expecting the gun range to comply with this. He does not have a track record with complying at all so far,” said Sukup.
The obstacle now is getting the gun range to sign the consent judgment for it to go into effect. There’s no telling how long that will take to happen.
Sukup is not optimistic about the board’s decision.
“So it’s not ‘if’ this consent judgment will be violated, but ‘when,’” he said. “Then what will be done when it is violated?”
People such as Sukup are wondering if time is on their side through these slow moving steps.
“I think it will take someone getting hurt,” he said. “I don’t think property damage is enough, but I think what will happen is someone will get hurt before something is done.”