ORONOGO (AP) — Homeowners living near a gun range in southwest Missouri are concerned about stray bullets that have been hitting homes. But local officials said there's little they can do.
Outdoor Addicts Gun Range opened in January in Oronogo. Since then, reports filed with the Jasper County Sheriff's Office indicate seven bullets have struck five houses within less than a mile of the range, the Joplin Globe reported.
"Every time you hear a shot — and there are a lot of them now — you wonder if it's the one," said Billy Butler, whose daughter was on a swing set when the wooden frame was hit by a bullet earlier this year.
The range's owner, John T. Block, insisted the bullets aren't from his range. Local homeowners aren't convinced, but their appeals to courts and government officials have so far been unsuccessful.
"We've been living here 10 years," said Marti Hamby, whose home was struck by a bullet in July. "Nobody had bullets in their houses (before the gun range was built)."
County Commissioner John Bartosh noted the lack of local zoning rules prevents the county from requiring certain safety regulations, such as protective berms built to a certain height. Zoning codes have repeatedly failed to gain political support from voters, "because most people who live out in the country don't want government telling them where they can build," Bartosh said.
Republican Rep. Cody Smith said the only state law discussing gun ranges was written to make it more difficult to sue the businesses.
"When you get into legislative prescriptions such as berm height or proximity, that inevitably is going to infringe on the rights of someone who does it in a safe way and has done it in a safe way for hundreds of years under Second Amendment protections," he said.
The homeowners, many of whom self-identify as gun supporters, said they think local officials are reluctant to fix the issue, because it could be perceived as regulating firearms.
"Because of the trend in gun rights, they think this is all a political issue,"Shannon Rainey, a homeowner said. "But for us, there ain't nothing political about this. This is our lives."