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North East’s bullet points regarding Millerton Gun Club

NORTH EAST— Ever since the 1920s, those who like to shoot guns, enjoy target practice or simply want to prepare for New York’s hunting seasons have gone to the Millerton Gun Club at 12 Gun Club Road off of Route 22 in the town of North East. It’s been a generational tradition in these parts, with the club currently boasting 241 active members and 40 inactive members (the club max is set at 300).

Famed ballplayer Babe Ruth is just one of many who has belonged to the well-established club during its storied past.

In more recent times, the club has come under fire for being too noisy. North East town Supervisor Chris Kennan raised the issue at the Town Board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 8, saying the guns shot today are more powerful and louder than those what were fired years ago.

He reported to the public and the rest of the Town Board of ongoing complaints lodged against the gun club. Kennan hopes to set up a private meeting with club leadership to see if there is any way to mitigate the excessive noise.

“The town has received, over quite a period of time, certainly a lot over the past year, complaints from residents about noise coming from the gun club,” said Kennan during his supervisor’s comments on the 8th. “It has been there a very, very long time, it has a long history in town, and residents of the town and village have been members and used it for years.”

Millerton Gun Club President Nelson C. “Skip” North Jr. said the town has made such requests previously. Usually, he said, they’re accompanied with a plea for the club to close entirely on Sundays. Although he fears that could lead to the town asking the club to close for additional days during the week, North said he’s always willing to talk.

“I’ll listen to any argument or any discussion, but I’m very closed on giving up any more time,” he said. “We’ve always given half a day on Sunday; now, with fewer people, I don’t see how they’re complaining.”

Counter to Kennan’s belief that the number of members has grown, North said on Monday, Sept. 19, current membership is lower than it used to be. He acknowledged less than half of its members are local residents, noting the membership makeup has been consistent for years.

“What happens is people from out of town come here to shoot, not at the gun club but to hunt,” explained North. “This is the nearest place to sight their guns.”

Shooters must “sight their guns” to calibrate the telescope on the top of the barrel and align it with the gun itself.

“The scope may say one thing and the barrel may say something else,” said North. “You have to sight it in.”

With an annual membership fee of $75, and free shooting offered to law enforcement, it’s not surprising the Millerton Gun Club attracts many gun enthusiasts. Still, North said few of the 281 members visit the grounds on a regular basis.

“They’re not here all the time, physically here,” he said. “There’s not a lot of shooting;  we keep a log of how many people shoot a day.”

He estimated on average, about three to four shooters make use of the club daily. There, hunter safety courses are offered and free training space is provided for police officers. Even with those services, North said the courses draw just a handful of students, who typically shoot between five to six rounds each.

On the morning of 19th, which North described as a “good day,” with bright sunshine and low wind conditions, only one shooter was at the club firing.

“That will tell you,” said North of the activity level.

At the Sept. 8 Town Board meeting, Kennan did not go into detail, but said he’s been approached multiple times since taking office in 2020, by residents annoyed with loud shots being fired all day long, all week long.

“[They’re] concerned the expressed use of the gun club has changed,” he said.

In addition to saying complaints stem from more frequent shooting, the town supervisor said the size and caliber of the firearms being shot have “made much more of a noticeable presence” of the club throughout the town.

“The kind of guns that are being fired there are bigger and louder, and capable of firing repeating shots,” he said. “Fifty years ago people would be more likely to be using shotguns for deer season and smaller-bore rifles.”

“Small-bore” refers to the size of the caliber, with a diameter of .32 inches or smaller.

North discounts Kennan’s claims, noting the club does not allow long guns because the “power in a long gun is more compressed than a short gun in a barrel.” He also said the club forbids shotguns from being fired from more than 200 feet away. Additionally, the club does not permit anything larger than a 50-caliber gun (classified as a shotgun).

In terms of shooting frequency, North said due to the skyrocketing cost of gunpowder and all of worldwide warfare, there’s been less shooting at the club.

“It’s a lot less than it used to be because of the absence of ammo,” he said, adding the cost of  ammunition is “out of sight.”

Previously, a box of 20 bullets cost about $2.49; now a box of 20 bullets is sold for $25 to $30.

Hunting grounds have also diminished, said North, with many former farms and wilderness now developed. Locals “must go further afield to hunt; most now go to Columbia County,” said North.

Kennan said despite that, the town is in a pickle with dissatisfied residents.

“Because the gun club preceded zoning, the town is very limited in what it can do,” he said. “But it is my intention to reach out to gun club to discuss with them some limitations on their hours of operation and the noise from the shooting [to make conditions] somewhat more tolerable.”

Kennan said noise from the seven-day-a-week club, which operates from sun up until sundown, often reverberates all the way to Sharon Road. After all, he said, guns are loud.

“Gunshot noise travels. It’s just a fact of life, it’s a loud noise,”
said the town supervisor.

North suggested those who plan to move near the club do their due diligence.

“I think the people interested in moving here, they are very smart to check on the noise,” he said. “Anyone who wants to come over to the club and listen, or go to the location of house they want to buy, should.”

North acknowledged noise is an ongoing issue for those who expect country quiet, but said his real concern is any underlying ulterior motives.

“What they’re doing, they’re trying to take a registry of guns, and take away our guns,” he said.

Kennan stressed the only concern is noise.

“This is a noise issue, not a gun issue,” he said. “I’m a gun owner.”

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