Shooting range at K-9 Interdiction nixed

Published 12:41 pm Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Board rejects late effort to make it private

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The residents of Walters dodged a bullet Thursday when American K-9 Interdiction lost its bid to add an outdoor public shooting range to its facility.

The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors unanimously denied the application for a conditional use permit after a lengthy and emotional public hearing that included an appearance by pro-guns rights advocate Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Civil Defense League.

Board Chairman Rex Alphin said it would be an “injustice” to allow a public shooting range in the small, close-knit Walters community.

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“There have been few issues that have been clearer. This is no place for a gun range,” he said, adding that it wasn’t a Second Amendment issue but a “quality of life issue.” {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Van Cleave had urged his organization’s 6,300 members to support the range and claimed it was a Second Amendment issue because gun owners needed a place to practice.

“There hasn’t been a gun store or range that hasn’t been in someone’s backyard,” he said.

Immediately prior to the public hearing, K-9’s attorney, Bill Riddick, said his clients wanted to send the application back to the planning commission and retool it as a non-public range with more restrictions.

The Board decided to forge ahead with the public hearing, and the defeat of the original application means K-9 cannot come forward with another proposal for a year.

The boardroom was overflowing as resident after resident, many of whom are former military and law enforcement as well as gun owners themselves, came forward and explained why an outdoor public shooting range would not be a good fit for Walters. Nearly all sported neon green, orange and pink “No shooting range” stickers.

There was also a strong law enforcement presence, as members of the VCDL were told they could bring guns to the courthouse complex.

Residents said a public shooting range would create too much noise and traffic, spook their dogs and horses, depress property values and add an unsafe element to their community.

Based on what K-9 was proposing, it “would sound like World War III,” said David Chitwood.

Volpe Boykin, who led the opposition to the range, became emotional when it was his turn to speak.

“You’re not voting on whether or not they get a shooting range, you’re voting on whether or not to destroy a neighborhood I love,” he said.

Michael Hlinovsky who lives on Burdette Road, was worried about property values.

“No one would want to buy a house with non-stop shooting,” he said.

The proposal called for shooting to be allowed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the public and outside those times for K-9 clients. 

There were only a few people present who were in favor of the shooting range, and all lived elsewhere besides Walters.

Roy Sorrell of Carrollton said he doesn’t like having to drive to Virginia Beach to shoot.

“We could use a range over here,” he said.

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

American K-9 Interdiction was approved in 2009 as a training facility for military bomb sniffing dogs. However, with the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East, company officials were seeking other ways to use the property. Riddick said the focus now is on providing dogs and training for law enforcement and private security.

Prior to appearing before the Planning Commission — the first step in the conditional use permit process — it appeared that K-9 was already using the property for a public shooting range. As a result, Isle of Wight issued a cease and desist order.

The Isle of Wight County Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of the application in May after a tense public hearing.  {/mprestriction}