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County Restricts Target Shooting In Rural Area Near U.S.-Mexico Border

A semi-automatic hand gun is displayed with a 10 shot magazine, left, and a 1...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A semi-automatic hand gun is displayed with a 10 shot magazine, left, and a 15 shot magazine, right, at a gun store in Elk Grove, Calif., Tuesday, June 27, 2017 photo.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved restrictions on year-round target shooting at two sites in a rural community near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The panel voted 3-2 in favor of an ordinance that, according to advocates, will reduce public safety threats, notably wildfire hazards.

Supervisors Kristin Gaspar and Bill Horn cast the dissenting votes against the measure, which affects two Bureau of Land Management-owned parcels near Dulzura — one directly south of state Route 94 and Campo Road, and the other west of Marron Valley Road.

A memorandum of understanding between the Sheriff's Department and the BLM will allow the county to enforce the restrictions.

According to county officials, sheriff's deputies have responded to 309 gun-related calls since 2010 at the sites and the BLM lacks the resources for street closures near the parcels.

Target shooting has ignited at least one significant wildfire in the area. In May 2017, a gunfire-sparked blaze spread over about 2,000 acres northwest of Dulzura, forcing the evacuation of 500 people and resulting in $2.3 million in suppression costs. A police officer directing traffic on the outskirts of the burn area was struck by a car, suffering serious injuries.

Prior to the vote, the supervisors heard from numerous speakers, most of them opposed to the restrictions.

One of those speaking in favor was Dulzura resident Wick Alexander, who told the board that residents of the rural community have met with representatives of numerous governmental agencies, including the U.S. Border Patrol, who agreed that target practice was a problem and sometimes forces people to stay indoors.

"This is a safety issue," Alexander said. "This ordinance will save lives. We've been crying for help for eight years."

Cliff Keller, who owns land in Dulzura, said residents of his neighborhood hear the "chilling sound of bullets flying over our properties." Keller did not, however, criticize those who take part in target practice in the area, opining that they likely were unaware of the resulting negative effects.

John Sivers, business manager with South Bay Road & Gun Club, contended that a blanket closure was not the right solution and would merely push people into more remote locales. He added that if members of his group felt there were significant fire danger, they would support limitations.

Michael Schwartz, executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners, argued that, contrary to Supervisor Dianne Jacob's assertion, no gun groups supported the restrictions.

"This is not about fire safety — it's about ending shooting in about 50 percent of public lands," Schwartz said.

Jacob responded that Schwartz had "totally misrepresented" their previous discussions on the proposal.

"There are at least a million acres of BLM land," she said. "We're talking about a three-square-mile area that is causing big problems."

Describing herself as a responsible firearm owner, Jacob asserted that the South Bay gun enthusiasts group has more 600 local acres, including other BLM properties, available for its use.

Horn, also a gun owner, opined that there were already sufficient limitations on the land in question, noting that target practice on the two BLM parcels has not resulted in any deaths.

When Horn announced that he would vote against the proposal, audience members applauded.

Gaspar, for her part, stated that the BLM should deal with any restrictions on its lands, not the county.

Supervisor Greg Cox, who voted along with Jacob and Ron Roberts in favor of the ordinance, suggested that the federal agency should provide more information on alternative areas for target shooting.


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