LOVELAND, OHIO - On August 24, 2004 Loveland City Council approved an ordinance allowing indoor shooting ranges in the City. The ordinance allows shooting ranges if they are constructed, licensed, and operated in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws. Two weeks before the council vote, the lawyer for Shooters Supply, William Gustavson, said he would provide council with these laws before they voted on the ordinance. He has never provided this information. These phantom regulations have been the subject of much community debate. On the one side, the proponents of the shooting range say the range will be perfectly safe because of these regulations, yet when the opponents of the ordinance or a city council member asks for the regulations so an informed decision can be made, nothing specific has ever been offered.
Loveland Magazine conducted several phone and in person interviews with local, state and federal officials looking for laws governing indoor shooting ranges. What was found is that the shooting range industry is largely self regulating, and for the most part, the National Rifle Association has written the guidelines that do exist.
There is nothing in the local code of ordinances about shooting ranges except in the noise ordinance, which surprisingly already specifically exempts shooting ranges from any noise regulation during daytime hours (7:00 A.M. - 10: P.M.). This is a surprising exception, in that before any shooting ranges are allowed in the community they are found to already be exempt from daytime noise levels. During the nighttime, noise from commercial or non-commercial shooting ranges can be 55 dBA. This level of sound is described as listening to a clothes washer from a distance of three feet, listening to normal conversation at a distance of three feet, or light auto traffic at 100 feet. It should be noted however that gunshots are a very short duration sound wave.
The proponents of the shooting range say they will have to get a City "license" to operate their shooting range. Fred Enderle, Loveland City Manager and Gerry Stoker Director of Building and Zoning said the City does not issue a license for shooting ranges. A building permit will be required and a building plan approval must be granted, but this does not address the specifics of operating a shooting range.
STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS
At the last City Council meeting, Councilmember Todd Osborne inferred that regulations could be found at the internet sites of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Justice Department and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, but also provided no documents or specifics. Loveland Magazine contacted officials with both government agencies for telephone interviews.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS AND EXPLOSIVES
The state ATF office in Columbus said that if the firearms are sold on the property or they leave the property, then ATF would regulate that sale. The spokesperson said that ATF does not regulate how shooting ranges are built or operated. In a phone interview, Mike Puckett, Area Supervisor of the Cincinnati ATF office said, "No sir, we do not regulate how shooting ranges are built or operated. I am not sure what federal agency would." He explained that ATF only regulates the "commerce" or sale of firearms and said he is aware of no federal law regulating shooting on ranges and is not aware of any restrictions in Ohio. When asked if he knew of any laws regulating the operation or construction of shooting ranges he answered, "Not that I am aware of."
Puckett said the Federal Government does regulate the age at which children can purchase firearms, but there is no State or Federal law governing the age at which children can shoot guns.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF ARGRICULTURE
Jim Truex, a Division Head with the Ohio Department of Agriculture was also called and asked the same question. Does the Ohio Department of Arigulture regulate the construction or operation of shooting ranges? He said, "Not to the best of my knowledge." He further said, that his department does regulate amusement parks, but the agency does not even regulate shooting galleries at carnivals.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE
Mike Puckett of ATF suggested that certainly they would be required to have liability insurance, so the Ohio Department of Insurance was called. Their spokesperson said there is no state law that requires a shooting range to have any type of insurance. She also said, "I don't know if there is any regulation in Ohio" concerning the construction or operation of shooting ranges.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
Steve Regoli is the staff person to the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board with the Ohio Department of Commerce. In a phone interview, he said they do not license shooting ranges. "You are not going to be able to go to the Ohio Building Code to find any regulations."
OHIO BOARD OF BUILDING STANDARDS
Deborah Ohler is the Staff Engineer with the Ohio Board of Building Standards, in the Industrial Compliance Division of the Ohio Department of Commerce. She also said there is nothing in the Ohio Building Code specific to shooting ranges. She said a shooting range could be constructed, "No different than any other recreational building." She said there were national Occupational Safety and Health Administration( OSHA) standards for lead contamination of the indoor air, but that they are not part of the Ohio Code and won't be until at least the year 2008, when the code is next updated. Even at that, OSHA protects workers; not neighbors and they also do not regulate the construction or operation of shooting ranges.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES - DIVISION OF WILDLIFE
David Wilson oversees Ohio's public shooting ranges. He said, "There is not one regulatory agency in Ohio" that regulates the construction or operation of commercial shooting ranges. He said they would be bound by local ordinances. He did say that the state legislature charged the Chief of the Department to establish standards and he has done so, but the standards are not obligatory. He explained that the law is really a "range protection bill" that was passed when range owners realized that subdivisions were being built around them and the owners sought State protection from lawsuits filed by their new neighbors. He explained that if a shooting range wants protection from civil or criminal liability, then they would adopt the rules. If they do not adopt the rules, then they could face prosecution from noise complaints, injury, or death as a result of the shooting range.
The laws and subsequent rules were written by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and passed on their behalf. Even the NRA calls this law, "Range Protection Legislation." Private or public shooting ranges in Ohio only have to "substantially" comply with these standards to receive the civil and criminal immunities granted under Ohio Revised Code.
Wilson said the rules follow the NRA Range Source Book guidelines. They are rules for the operation of ranges and do not address the construction of indoor shooting ranges. To read the Ohio Range Rules, click here: Download range_rule.html
The NRA Range Source Book is not available in any of the Hamilton County Public Libraries, nor could it be found on the Internet.
OHIO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY AND HAMILTON DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES
The Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services (HCDES) is the regulatory agency for the Ohio EPA here in Loveland. Both Barb Kerdolf and Kathy Baldack at HCDES said they would not monitor either the inside or outside air from the shooting range, unless complaints are made. And in any case, they do not regulate inside air quality. OSHA would do that, also upon a complaint. There are environmental regulations for the disposal of lead and the Southwest District Office of the Ohio EPA would regulate its disposal. HCDES would only get involved in the release of lead to the outside environment when the emissions exceed one ton per year.
There are federal guidelines (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) for indoor exposure of lead at shooting ranges, but these guidelines do not seem to be under any regulatory agency's purview.