The Spurwink Rod & Gun Club in Cape Elizabeth announced Monday that it will address new safety concerns that led to the closing of its outdoor shooting range last week, but club leaders question the “reasonableness” of an expert’s standards in issuing a highly critical report.

Police Chief Neil Williams ordered the club to suspend shooting at the town’s only outdoor range on Friday after an expert endorsed by the National Rifle Association found the facility unsafe for members and neighbors.

Town officials received a preliminary report Thursday from Rick LaRosa, an architect from Kennesaw, Georgia, who was hired by the town to conduct an independent safety evaluation of the shooting range at 1250 Sawyer Road.

“We feel that, while the Georgia-based inspector raises some valid concerns, he has surpassed a standard of reasonableness,” Tammy Walter, club president, said in a news release Monday.

LaRosa’s report is the latest twist in a conflict between the decades-old club and its newer residential neighbors, whose safety and noise complaints the Town Council tried to address last year by passing a shooting range ordinance.

The Town Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing Sept. 14 on the club’s application for a license to operate under the shooting range ordinance, which was approved in March 2014.


LaRosa found a variety of safety and security deficiencies at the range, including a lack of structures to prevent stray bullets from leaving the property, protect club members from being hit by accidental discharges and keep nonmembers from accidentally or intentionally entering the 18-acre facility.

“All ballistics that are currently indicated as ‘allowed’ at the range have the potential of leaving the range site and property,” LaRosa wrote in a 17-page report. “There is currently no containment system in place … to assure accidental fire, ricochets or fragments are contained.”

LaRosa also found that the club’s range manual is incomplete, and that recent and proposed improvements touted by club leaders aren’t enough to ensure the safety of members or neighbors.

LaRosa concluded that the range is an “average facility” that is “minimally maintained,” but it would be appropriate for shooting activities if the club hired a qualified designer to design and install recommended baffling, containment and other safety systems.

Walter questioned the standards that LaRosa used to assess the safety of the shooting range.

“No organization can compare favorably when audited against an ideal,” Walter said. “Our property is fenced and posted against trespass. When used as intended, we have shot containment.”


The club’s operating procedures have helped it maintain a 61-year history of safety, Walter said. All members are NRA-trained and certified to enforce rules that are prominently displayed, she said.

“The Spurwink Rod & Gun Club is a safe club,” Walter said. “Safety is more than infrastructure. It is a set of habits and procedures by its members. Ultimately, any club is only as safe as its members conduct themselves. The Spurwink Rod & Gun Club has a 61-year history of safety and previously passed inspections.”

Walter noted that the club has done a lot of work since LaRosa visited the shooting range in April.

“As part of a major multi-year effort, the club has done much in the interim to further improve the safety of its facilities,” Walter said. “The inspector audited a substantial work in progress. We have invested a great deal of time, effort and resources to improve. Further efforts are planned and underway. Conformance to an ideal requires time, which is always constrained, and resources, which are finite.”

Walter said the club plans to work with town officials to resolve safety issues as quickly as possible to provide the safest facility possible. She noted that the club remains open for archery, fishing and other events pending the Town Council’s public hearing.

“The club looks forward to the lifting of its suspension and to continuing the many good works that the club performs in and for its community,” Walter said.