Shooting range showdown

Published 12:42 pm Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A boardroom full of guns is possible


By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

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Armed members of a gun rights group, the Virginia Civil Defense League, are expected to attend the public hearing Thursday on the proposed outdoor public shooting range in Walters. 

“Carry is allowed,” in the Board of Supervisors room, said VCDL President Philip Van Cleave in an alert sent last week to the organization’s 6,300 members across Virginia.

Isle of Wight County Sheriff Mark Marshall said his agency is prepared for the meeting.

“We will make every effort to ensure that the Board of Supervisors meeting occurs without significant disruption. The people’s business must be done,” Marshall said. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Van Cleave said alerting his members that they can carry a weapon to the meeting is general practice and is not intended to intimidate anyone at the meeting.

“People have a right to carry for self-defense and we always encourage members to carry wherever they can legally do so,” he said.

Van Cleave said his board overwhelmingly voted to seek approval of the range by the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors, and encourages VCDL members to do the same.

“They have 6,300 people to come beat up on little Walters,” said Volpe Boykin, who lives near the site of the proposed range, which would be located at American K-9 Interdiction on Burdette Road.

“Talk about feeling helpless and outnumbered,” said Boykin, who also happens to be a member of the VCDL.

Boykin has led the opposition to the K-9’s application, which calls for an outdoor public shooting range that would be used by law enforcement, government entities, proprietary clients and recreation shooters from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. for the public and outside those times for K-9 clients, according to a county staff report.

One proposed shooting range in the application would be for 50M TACT rifles — long-range military sniper rifles used in Afghanistan.

K-9 is currently under a cease and desist order from the county after it allegedly opened a public shooting range prior to approval by the Board.

K-9 was approved in 2009 as a training facility for bomb-sniffing dogs for the military. Those contracts have since fallen off and the owners are seeking new uses for the property.

VCDL members have already sent a flood of emails to the members of the Board of Supervisors after the proposed range was recommended for denial by the Isle of Wight County Planning Commission in May.

Van Cleave claims it is a Second Amendment issue.

Access to shooting ranges is important for Virginia’s gun owners, said Van Cleave in his alert.

There are currently 32 private and public shooting ranges within 60 miles of Smithfield, according to

Also, there are plans being explored for a shooting range right over the Virginia state line in Camden County, N.C. that is located “in the middle of nowhere,” according to a story in the Virginia Pilot, According to the Pilot story, the range would be on 250 acres, include indoor and outdoor ranges with a 1,200-meter distance range, as well as skeet and trap shooting fields.

Boykin, who has a personal shooting range at his home, said it’s a property rights issue due the amount of noise, traffic and safety concerns a public outdoor shooting range would generate.

Boykin said Van Cleave came to Walters and did a gun test with various types of firearms. Boykin said all of the weapons could be heard at this house except the 22 rifle.

But those guns were shot one at a time, Boykin said.

“Their goal is misplaced this time,” he said of the VCDL.

Boykin said he’s concerned about the number of people planning to attend the meeting — most of whom will be sitting on opposite sides of a volatile and emotional issue. The Board of Supervisors room was filled shoulder-to-shoulder for the planning commission meeting in May, which was accompanied by several outbursts from members of the public attending the session.

Boykin sent out 146 letters and nearly 80 people attended the planning commission meeting. This time, Boykin has sent out 450 letters.

“If something bad happens, they’re (county officials) are going to have to choke on it,” he said.

Board Chairman Rex Alphin said the county decided not to change the location of the meeting because it would have to be re-advertised and some people could be confused and go to the wrong place.

Alphin said there are video screens and enhanced speakers in the lobby as well as downstairs, and county officials plan to install speakers outside.

“We have a lot of outside,” he said of making room for all who may attend.

Alphin said there are 11 public hearings scheduled for July 21, and those who require speakers, other than the K-9 application, will go first.

“We have steps in place to accommodate this crowd and allow everyone to speak.” he said.

The meeting is Thursday, July 21, 6 p.m. at the Isle of Wight County Courthouse complex.  {/mprestriction}