Gun club, residents at odds over bullets

Over 30 residents gathered here on Monday night to discuss con­cerns about stray bullets from the Guelph Rod and Gun Club – but the club’s president denies any bullets are leaving the prop­erty.
Art Gibson, who lives on a farm adjacent to the club on County Road 29, said over the years he has found bullets in his yard, in the side of his barn and shed, and even in his home.
“I can’t safely walk on the path behind my home,” Gibson told the crowd.
He said the issue with stray bullets goes back to the 1970s, but numerous com­plaints since then to police have fallen on deaf ears – per­haps because some of the club’s members are police officers.
“The noise is almost deaf­ening,” Gibson said, adding it is so loud he cannot have cattle on his land, and when he tried to visit the club once to explain his problem, “They told me to get the ‘F’ off of their prop­erty. That’s the type of cooperation you get from these people.”
Borden Zazinsky, president of the non-profit gun club, ac­knowledged on Tuesday there was an incident with an alleged bullet hitting Gibson’s barn “a number of years ago.”
However, Zazinsky said a subsequent police investigation showed there was “a question of credibility.” He added that Gibson still holds onto those bullets because he has an axe to grind.
Zazinsky even hinted that Gibson might be planting bul­lets on the farm property, and  said he’s heard unsubstantiated  re­ports that Gibson has been seen on the club’s property picking up bullets.
But Chris Wyatt, the pro­vince’s Chief Firearms Officer, told The Advertiser on Tuesday that is not how the bullets reach­ed Gibson’s property.
“We would not agree with that,” Wyatt said of Zazinsky’s allegations.
Wyatt explained the entire issue stemmed from complaints his office received last summer from a neighbouring landowner about bullets leaving the club’s property. He said he takes such complaints very seriously, and as such, an investigator visited the property soon after.
“Our investigation deter­mined that there were bullets leaving the property,” Wyatt said. He has since heard about previous complaints of stray bullets, but said the complaint last summer was the first received by his office.
Wyatt said he could not give any details about the gun club’s issues of non-compliance, but he responded, “Yes,” when asked if the main issue the club needs to address is bullets leav­ing the property. He also con­firmed that not all the ranges at the club are currently open.
Zazinsky has stated the visit from the CFO’s office last sum­mer was a routine inspection for which the club was due. He said prior to the inspection the club was in total compliance, but the CFO was starting to ap­ply new standards, so the club had to make several minor chan­ges.
Just recently, dump trucks were coming in and out of the club to build up the berm at the back of the property, Zazinsky said. Currently two outdoor ranges remain closed because the club is awaiting an in­spec­tion of that work, he said.
But Zazinsky is adamant no bullets are leaving the club’s prop­erty. All of the firing done at the club is in a southern dir­ection, he said, and Eden Mills is located to the north.
The only way bullets could be found in that area is if someone is deliberately shoot­ing in the opposite direction, over the berm, Zazinsky said.
In addition, he noted there are local hunters who shoot in the area who may be to blame for any stray bullets, as well as any noise pollution.
“You can’t put all the blame on the gun club,” he said.
A couple of residents at the Eden Mills community hall on Monday, including Jake Roel­of­sen, indicated hunters could indeed be playing a role in the noise and stray bullets. He said he has raised three children in the immediate area, and he has “never had one second of con­cern for their safety.”
He also said he knew the club was there when he bought his land – as did many resi­dents, including members of the Eden Mills steering ­com­mittee – so complaining now about noise makes little sense.
But Roelofsen, who said he has “never had any issues” with the club, was clearly in the min­ority, as most residents at the meeting did express safety concerns.
Fred Ludolph, director of the Edgewood Camp and Con­ference Centre, located just south of Eden Mills, said it is more than the safety of residents at stake, because about 36 high school students are at the camp almost every day of the school year.
“I always told clients that it is loud but it’s safe,” he said, noting he is not impressed to hear bullets may be leaving the grounds. Ludolph also men­tioned Edgewood pre-dates the gun club, having been in the community since 1945.
Ludolph added, “I can’t af­ford a lead problem.”
He was responding to state­ments made by steering com­mittee member Tim Laing that historically some gun clubs have had trouble with lead seeping into the ground, as a result of lead bullets being broken down by the material used in club berms.
Some residents at the meeting were surprised to learn they are not alone.
Sean Keeping, one of two people at the meeting from Spring­water Township near Barrie, said his community is experiencing “almost identical” problems with the Barrie Gun Club. Like others at the meeting, he stressed that he is not against guns or the sport of shooting, but said there must be some accounta­bility when it comes to safety.
Residents have found about 30 bullets from the Barrie Gun Club on township land, and another 15 or so in a nearby community park, Keeping said.
Wyatt confirmed the Barrie club is experiencing similar problems as the Guelph club, including stray bullets.
Keeping said it is important for groups like his – the Grenfel Ratepayers Group – and the Eden Mills Steering Com­mittee to band together to address safety concerns.
“It’s too late once someone gets hurt,” he said.
As for working with the gun clubs on a solution, it appears that is not an option locally.
Zazinsky said the Eden Mills Steering Committee has made inquiries about the work being done at the gun club, but that’s “none of their business, as far as we’re concerned.
“We’re not going to commu­nicate with them … It’s one thing to communicate if you’re on a friendly basis, but this is no longer friendly.”
That sentiment was echoed by Laing and fellow committee member Grant Smillie on Monday.
Laing said the club sees Eden Mills residents as “noth­ing but a pain,” and previous attempts at mediation did not work.  He also said perhaps the committee was “too strident” in its approach, but Smillie said its members did everything they could to find a solution.
“We certainly have made every attempt to have cordial con­versation, and we’ve fail­ed,” Smillie said.