The Vernon Township Council will look into regulating target practice on residential property after a stray bullet last month struck the garage of a resident in the Glen Harbor section of town.
“There is no current law in the state or ordinance in the township of Vernon that would prevent someone from firing on their own property, especially when the size of the property is such that the boundaries are not close to a neighborhood or neighbor,” said business administrator Charles Voelker on April 12.
Three weeks earlier, Voelker said, police were called to the scene after receiving a report that a bullet struck a home in Glen Harbor. The police spoke to the homeowner and were informed they’d heard a lot of shooting.
Another homeowner had purchased a 59-acre parcel and said he planned to do target practice on the property and would sometimes have friends come over for target practice.
He created a berm with soil and trees to prevent bullets from ricocheting either off the property or elsewhere on the property.
“It appeared for whatever reason it was not successful,” Voelker said.
Voelker said the property owner was informed that he would be responsible for any damage caused by the stray bullet. The property owner said he would contact the owner of the damaged property, pay for the damages, and apologize personally.
Voelker said he did not know whether any of that happened.
’A matter of safety’
“This is not a question of second amendment rights,” said Harry Shortway, the township council president. “We’re not questioning possession or ownership, but the discharge. Even a simple .22 can go a mile. It’s a matter of safety.”
Shortway said other New Jersey townships, including neighboring West Milford, do not allow shooting ranges unless they are inspected annually, a recommendation later made by Councilman Andrew Pitsker.
No one knew of any similar incidents happening at the township’s Cherry Ridge range.
“It just takes one round,” Shortway said.
Mayor Howard Burrell said the township was taking the issue seriously and shared the concern of the area’s residents.
“The owner was shaken by the fact that he could have hurt somebody,” Burrell said. “We have someone’s legal right, and we want to adhere to those and safety.”
Pitsker said a gun owner’s first responsibility is safety.
“When a round leaves your chamber, it is your responsibility where it lands,” he said. “The homeowner understands that.”
“There is no current law in the state or ordinance in the township of Vernon that would prevent someone from firing on their own property, especially when the size of the property is such that the boundaries are not close to a neighborhood or neighbor.” Business administrator Charles Voelker