Bullets flying over our rural property

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By MARTHA COOK

Guest Opinion

WHERE was the sheriff? This is a threat to the safety of our county residents.

One evening recently about 6 p.m., our neighbor began firing a gun. Sixty rounds were rapidly fired, 10 shots, followed by 10 more, etc. It sounded like his aim was toward the lower part of our acreage and/or our other neighbor’s horse pasture. We live in the Rural Zone in the Mica Flats area; target practice and shooting wildlife are both allowed in this zone as the parcels are nealy all 5 acres or larger. However, this neighbor lives on a 2.5 acre parcel, with his house placed about in the center of his acreage. If anyone wants to "do the math," it is easy to see that the range of any bullets fired from his land can reach well beyond his boundaries and thus endanger people, livestock, equipment and timber belonging to neighbors. This goes beyond "public nuisance" and becomes "endangering others."

As we couldn’t see the shooter, and could tell the bullets were being directed more TOWARD our land than away from us, we were apprehensive about going about our usual activities in that area (our garden, woods, parking lot). So we called 9-1-1. The deputy who called back told us that rural residents have a right to target practice. We told him that this same household had been warned by another deputy, in May 2012, that they had "NO safe range, no backdrop" and that their "vector" actually put our fields, livestock, equipment, and our neighbor’s home in jeopardy. Prior to that warning, we had turned in the complaint that the shooter had been setting up targets on a sheet of plywood with our land as the backdrop. We farm that land, we fence that land, we often walk about in those trees. ALL county residents SHOULD FEEL SAFE and BE SAFE as they go about their own property. And, also, trespass "by bullet" is still trespass, a deadly form of trespass.

This time, this deputy said something so assinine that I can hardly believe he is on the force: "Are you in danger? Are bullets flying over your heads?" My husband told him that if that was the case, we might already have been hit, and that we felt in danger or wouldn’t have called. The deputy said he would make a few calls. That was the end of any support from the Sheriff’s Office.

I insist that the sheriff come out and LOOK over this situation. As the shooter’s home acreage is surrounded by other homes, several of which are also on 2.5 acre lots, there is NO SAFE DIRECTION for him to shoot. At least 6 of the 2.5 acre parcels in this man’s immediate "subdivision" are also surrounded with homes or livestock. No one should be allowed to shoot from these small parcels unless defending themselves from predators.

I would also like to hear from other county residents who have had this problem. Our Sheriff’s Office exists to protect the residents and uphold the law. IF the bullet’s range is such that the landowner cannot contain his shots totally inside his boundaries, then shooting from these small parcels should be prohibited. How would the public feel if target practice takes place on other large parcels, such as NIC’s campus? On the KMC grounds? In McEuen Park downtown? On Tubbs Hill?

There HAS to be some common sense in all of this — and it shouldn’t be my family having to duck and run each time this neighbor "blasts off."

•••

Martha Cook is a Kootenai County resident.

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