A measure proposed by Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney would open the possibility of suing city and county jurisdictions when bullets stray from private property and injure others.
The bill, Senate Bill 781 (SB781), may not have an immediate impact on the dispute between residents of west Keizer and a shooting range located in Polk County across the river, but the threat of financial liability might force the hand of Polk County commissioners who have been reluctant to take action.
Keizer residents have attended Polk County Commissioners’ meetings several times during the past year to ask for an end to the shooting taking place across the river and, were at one point, asked “how big a bubble” they wanted.
SB781 would also make it explicit in Oregon Revised Statute that a county or city could adopt ordinances to “regulate, restrict or prohibit the discharge of firearms within their boundaries,” but the bill includes numerous exceptions in the vein of simply having permission to discharge a firearm on private property as a justification for doing so.
While the bill is a step towards addressing issues involving the shooting range, it’s still not quite what some Keizer residents are hoping for.
“We would like to see language applying to property damage and emotional injury. The bullets [from the Polk County range] have not caused any bodily harm, yet,” said Rhonda Rich, a neighbor of the Bauers and longtime board member of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association.
Rich said she and other residents are tracking the bill’s movement through the Oregon Legislature.
“We will also be involved in the public hearing on this bill and request that amendments be made to effectively protect west Keizer residents and visitors to our parks,” Rich said.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, but no hearings have been scheduled. Keizertimes reached out to Sen. Peter Courtney’s office for comment on the bill and its origins, but received no response by press time.
In the meantime, court proceedings and a request for a permanent injunction to stop the shooting at the private shooting range are progressing.
In June 2018, a round fired from the shooting range penetrated the exterior walls of a home owned by Keizer residents Tom and Sheryl Bauer and came to a rest after hitting a granite backsplash in the couple’s kitchen. Sheryl was standing a few feet away at the time.
The Bauers are seeking $2.7 million in damages and a cease to using a quarry on the property across the river as a shooting range. The owner of the range, Lance Davis and his business Northwest Rock, Inc., attempted to have the matter dismissed earlier this year, but the courts denied the action.
The City of Keizer has joined the request for a permanent injunction as an intervenor. As an intervenor, the city will not be entitled to monetary awards of the lawsuit, but it is an act of solidarity with the Bauers.
A hearing on injunction is currently slated for April 9 and 10.