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Flying bullets rattle residents: Bountiful hillside neighbors call for decisive action
by Melinda Williams and Rolf Koecher
Jul 14, 2009 | 1897 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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NEIGHBORS Shari GIBBONS and Marie Burke use satellite image to show that all four bullet hits were approximately on the same line from the Lions Club shooting range, although the shots could have been fired from farther up the hillside.
BOUNTIFUL — Residents in a Bountiful eastside neighborhood aren’t feeling very safe these days – and they’re demanding that something be done about it.

That’s because a stray bullet missed a Bountiful man by less than a foot July 6, one of at least four such incidents over the past four years. Neighbors contend that the spate of incidents may only be a fraction of the problem because no one knows how many bullets may be lodged in nearby trees, shrubs or open fields.

“Each time it happens, everybody is scared half to death to be outside,” said neighbor Shari Gibbons, who lives on 725 East near 1500 North. “We’re scared to death to have our children and grandchildren playing outside.”

She blames the nearby Lions Club gun range, which is just over a mile away from the area – and she wants it moved out. While most people at the range shoot safely, she said, some get careless and shoot toward homes. The range also attracts other shooters to the area.

“There are rogue shooters out in the hillsides shooting,” she said, noting that these people are completely unsupervised. “Signs tell them ‘No Shooting,” but they’ve been shot out.”

The incident that touched off the latest round of concerns occurred at about 8 p.m. at the home of Tim Biehn. His 23-year-old son Adam was on the front porch when a bullet whizzed by while the was seated outside the home near 1400 North on East Hills Circle.

“Adam was concerned, but he wasn’t really shaken about it,” said his father. “He went on an LDS mission to South Africa, and the violence was 100 times worse than here. To him it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

What bothers residents, however, is that this wasn’t an isolated incident. “If it’s happened four times, you know it will happen again,” Biehn said. “The problem is people walking along the hillsides target shooting or aiming at a bird, not thinking where the bullet is going to end up. There will always be stupid people, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Unfortunately, you can’t legislate against stupidity,”

Biehn, however, isn’t quick to blame the gun range or to call for its removal.

“I’d hate to see careful and committed gun owners penalized because of one or two stupid people who don’t think about what they are doing. My concern is if they close the gun club range down, it would make the problem even worse. It would force people to shoot along the hillsides.”

What has concerned some residents of the area is the perception that Bountiful police haven’t taken the matter seriously in the past. They feel their continued complaints have gone unheeded over the years, and police have offered few solutions.

Following the latest incident, “I believe the police are taking it seriously now,” Biehn said. “Chief Tom Ross was here for a full hour. They reviewed the video tapes from the gun range and talked to people there. The tape showed no one was shooting out of the ordinary. They did everything they could and took it as far as they could.

“They did some trajectory analysis, which indicated that the bullets could not have come from the gun club or even from the nearby Centerville gun range. Their belief is that it was someone shooting from Fire Break Road.”

Biehn also likes an idea proposed by the Bountiful police chief. “He indicated a concern that this has happened too frequently now. They are going to make it a no-shooting zone anywhere below the 8,000-foot line, and they will be posting signs on that. They are just waiting for further contact from the Forest Service and the Davis County Sheriff.”

The situation has Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson concerned for residents’ safety. “Those are our citizens, and we want to do all that we can to protect them from stray bullets.”

Bountiful Police have increased their patrols, but Police Lt. Randy Pickett said one of the problems officers face in patrolling is that there are a lot of areas where shooters can head up into the Forest Service land, which are difficult for officers to get to. “It’s not like patrolling a subdivision,” he said.

Pickett said he believes new signage may help “for those who obey the signs. But you always have those who won’t obey the signs, and we can’t control those.”

Meanwhile, Johnson recognizes the very real possibility that someone could be killed by stray bullets. “It’s distressing to me that a bullet can come flying down into a neighborhood.”

He explained that as far as moving the range, that the city doesn’t own the land it is on so currently has no authority to move it.

However, city officials are working on a land transfer with the U.S. Forest Service, which would put the land in the city’s hands. And as far as moving the gun range if the swap is made, “we haven’t crossed that bridge yet,” Johnson said.

The mayor said “there are people up there who don’t know rifles and handguns and are shooting. That’s not OK when houses are within range (of the bullets).”

Following the most recent incident, a number of area residents aren’t willing to be patient much longer. “We just can’t ignore it any more. This problem needs to be addressed. Somebody needs to be actively doing something,” said Darrell Larson, who lives near 800 East and 1400 North.

He recalls a recent incident that occurred just last October when a bullet hit the front door of a nearby house, shattered its glass panels and lodged in an interior wall. Another bullet was found in the garage door.

Shari Gibbons, meanwhile, still can’t forget when a bullet struck her home about 6 p.m. on Oct. 3, 2005.

“It came through our back yard, and it went through the house, going through the siding and sheet rock, and the bullet came right in. We were scared to death and wondered if someone were trying to hurt us.”

In her case, the police took the bullet and immediately thought it had come from the Lions Club shooting range. Because the range was closed, they returned a few days later to interview the range master – who remembered that three young men in their 20s had been shooting. When they were done, they walked to their car and got a hand gun.

“They were pointing it to a box they had found and put on top of a rock. They shot several rounds, and they all went down into our neighborhood,” she said. “Another home on East Hills Drive was also hit, with the bullet going through the garage door and into their car. They didn’t notice it until a couple of days later.”

The police apprehended the young men through a check of the gun range log and by the description of the range master, who had seen them shooting and had insisted they go home.

Lions Club officials were contacted by the Clipper but were not immediately able to issue a formal statement, although they may do so within a few days.

mwilliams@davisclipper.com
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