The Falmouth Rod and Gun Club has temporarily closed all four of its shooting ranges because town officials have found unsafe conditions such as berms that are worn down and driveways that are too close to ranges.

The town’s code enforcement officer inspected the property late last year in response to complaints from three residents who live next to the 35-acre club. Several said spent ammunition had landed on their property, and one neighbor said he had been hit by birdshot falling from the sky.

“The issues brought to our attention, we’re addressing. Anytime we’re dealing with guns, it’s a safety issue,” said Falmouth Police Chief Edward Tolan.

The club’s trap range was closed Oct. 21, and the lower pistol range was closed Jan. 7, after the inspections, said Community Development Director Amanda Stearns.

The club voluntarily shut down all of its ranges on March 15, said club President David Ennis. The closure will give the club time to assess the safety concerns and fix any problems.

He said he could not estimate how long the ranges will be closed, or how much it will cost to comply with codes.

Tolan said a Falmouth police officer who is a certified firearms instructor is working with the club to reconfigure its four ranges to address the safety concerns.

Code Enforcement Officer Justin Brown inspected the club Nov. 24 after town officials received numerous complaints, Stearns said. In a letter to Ennis dated Dec. 16, Brown said he had found “serious safety issues” with the trap range and insufficient barriers in the lower pistol range. He called for those two ranges to remain closed until the problems could be fixed.

Improvements include adjusting the ranges so spent ammunition and clay remnants from the skeet targets stay on the club’s property, Tolan said.

Other changes include raising a berm at the lower pistol range and moving the driveway that club members use to access the range, which is about 100 yards downrange from where people fire.

The berms are too low because they have settled since the range was established in 1949 as a military training facility, Ennis said. The berms must be raised several feet to meet code.

Rick Akerson is one of three neighbors who complained to town officials. His property runs along the northern edge of the gun club, where the lower pistol range and the trap range are located. Akerson built his house on the property in 2003.

He said clay remnants from skeet targets have been falling on his property for years. One time, he said, he was “hit pretty hard with birdshot” that fell from the sky.

He wasn’t injured so he didn’t see a doctor or file a police report, he said.

Akerson said he doesn’t have a problem with the club’s operations, just concerns about safety.

Todd Kelly, another neighbor who has expressed safety concerns to town officials, declined to comment on the situation this week. Assessment records indicate Kelly’s home was built in 1999. The third neighbor could not be reached.

The Falmouth Rod and Gun Club is run by volunteers and has 300 members who pay annual dues of $125. The club has been used by law enforcement agencies and people seeking firearm permits for pistol qualification and training.

During the town’s investigation, Stearns said, officials realized that the club has operated without a permit since 1995. The town requires annual safety inspections for permit renewal, but because the club was built before the code was created in 1965, officials assumed it was exempt.

Stearns said that as soon as the club completes the improvements and comes into compliance with the code, the police department can issue a permit and the ranges can be reopened.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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