For Applegate Valley residents living in the vicinity of Anderson Butte, gunfire and the dangers from stray bullets have become an almost daily threat.
Residents living near the butte itself experience such a constant barrage of bullets flying out day and night from the target shooters on the Anderson Butte BLM lands that some of us live in fear of stepping outside our homes and being shot by a bullet straying from where target shooters come to practice their hobby. Indeed, one local family member recently escaped death from a bullet embedding in the door to the bedroom of her home far across the valley and several miles from the target shooters. Apparently, some shooters don’t have any idea where their bullets are going, and how far they travel.
We all make choices about where to live. Some choose to live in town where shops, services and other amenities are nearby and can be reached easily, often by public transit. Along with advantages of high-density living come the disadvantages of noise, pollution and crime. Others choose to live in rural areas; we forego the convenience of amenities and escape the noise and pollution in favor of the peace and tranquility of life surrounded by nature. We enjoy the spirituality that this offers. Some of us electing country living have farms or ranches, while others of us commute into town, or simply retire here to enjoy the peace of country living.
Among the negatives that urban dwellers experience, they don’t count the constant sound of gunfire and stray bullets hitting their homes, their pets and livestock, or themselves and their loved ones. Indeed, if gunfire were heard in town, the police would quickly be called, and the problem resolved. This is not the case for many of us living in rural Jackson County far from the easy reach of law enforcement officers.
While residents of the Anderson Butte area are threatened, the security risk we experience is not confined to us. This area is a favorite recreation target for many regional urban inhabitants who come to hike, bike or ride our trails. The array of trails developed and managed by the Siskiyou Uplands Trails Association and the Applegate Trails Association are high on the list of favorite destinations for Southern Oregonians seeking peace and tranquility out in the country.
Regrettably, several of the trailheads are located in or near the favorite sites for target shooters. The result is that visitors frequently find themselves unable to start a trip for fear of being shot or ducking behind trees and boulders and unable to continue or complete their trip for fear of the same outcome.
While many of the residents of this area are themselves gun owners, and do not question the right of others to own guns and hunt or engage in target practice, what concerns us all is the lack of precautions and the absence of safety concerns that are exhibited by many who come to the BLM lands of Anderson Butte to indulge their hobby. Somewhat surprisingly, ignorance of the rules of gun safety is an excuse for unsafe behavior, so target shooters can simply claim ignorance and exempt themselves from the repercussions of unsafe behavior.
For several years, residents of Griffin Lane and Sterling Creek Road have been exposed to increasing noise and threats coming from Anderson Butte. We have sought help from the BLM and county law enforcement who have tried to address our concerns. They have done the best they can to make sure the areas contain alerts and warnings about unsafe shooting. Regrettably, the response to the signs that have been posted in the area has been discouraging. Instead of heeding the warnings and adjusting their behavior, some of the target shooters seemingly shoot or remove the signs — thus maintaining the claim of ignorance of safety precautions and immunity from justice. Despite the engagement of law enforcement, the problem persists and the threat to residents and visitors continues.
Since the best efforts of the BLM and local law enforcement officers to persuade target shooters to adopt standard safety practices have failed, we are now asking the BLM to close the area to target practice. We again wish to stress that this request is not based on opposition to the right of residents to own guns and undertake target practice, but to the threats that the behavior of a few bad actors have imposed on us and visitors to our area.
Alan Journet, Peggy Martin and Hope Robertson are concerned Applegate residents of Griffin Lane and Sterling Creek Road. This opinion was also signed by 12 other residents of the area.