By TIM KELSH
On Saturday, June 2, the serenity of a beautiful morning overlooking the Willamette River in Keizer was ruined by semi-automatic gunfire from across the river in Polk County. Approximately 500 rounds were fired that morning, mostly by semi-automatic weapons; my neighbor’s home was hit by a stray bullet. The bullet traveled through the exterior and interior wall of their home narrowly missing my neighbor’s wife as she stood in her kitchen.
This reckless incident occurred less than a year after a similar incident at Sunset Park in Keizer, again the result of semi-automatic gunfire from across the river in Polk County from the same property. I am sick of the near constant shooting from this property, as are every single neighbor that I have talked to. I hate living in fear when the shooting starts. Now we know without a shadow of a doubt that we are not even safe in our own homes. This is no way to go through life, fearful, wondering if this is the day something terrible will happen.
My wife and I just celebrated our 30th year of living in our home in Keizer on the Willamette River. We have seen more than our share of tragedy while living here. There was the incident in the early 1990s while waterskiing on the river we were buzzed by a float plane. The pilot flew very low over us, with the sun in his eyes, we feared he did not see us and would collide with our boat as he landed. We filed a complaint with the FAA in Seattle but sadly they blew-off our complaint. That pilot continued his reckless behavior and it was soon after he struck and killed two people in a canoe near Wheatland Ferry, leaving two young children without parents. Then there was the horrible collision between two Jet Ski’s playing “chicken” that left a young mother dead in my boat, in front of my young children. That tragic accident also left two young children without a mother.
Reckless behavior will probably always be with us, but reckless behavior with guns capable of firing bullets 1-2 miles is completely unacceptable near residential homes and parks in Keizer. How pathetic is it that the reckless discharge of semi-automatic weapons is occurring on property owned by a Salem firefighter whose professional mission is public safety? It is almost unbelievable, except that it has been happening for years in spite of many, many complaints. Hundreds of rounds—perhaps thousands of rounds—fired several days per week, almost year round, suggest that this property owner is not very interested in the safety and well-being of the citizens of Keizer. This has to stop now.
Since the development of Keizer Rapids Park the Willamette River has become a busy place. Summer days can see hundreds of rafters, kayakers and power boaters. These people deserve an environment free of reckless gunfire in which to recreate.
I am a gun owner and lifelong hunter, and I firmly believe in the responsible and legal use of firearms. but I don’t believe in fools using guns recklessly in an urban area.
I am calling for a ban on the discharge of handguns and rifles on this property. It’s only a matter of time until a tragedy occurs. As I described earlier I have seen enough tragedy from actions that could have been prevented. Please contact Keizer city councilors, and especially commissioners from both Marion and Polk Counties.
We have to do something now.
(Tim Kelsh lives in Keizer.)