Members of the Pitt Meadows Gun Club fired back at their critics publicly for the first time at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The club members expressed their disappointment after city council voted against bylaws that would have allowed the club to resume operations – shotgun sports with clay pigeons.
The club’s activities were suspended after neighbours complained about the noise of more frequent shooting, environmental concerns about lead contamination at the site, and fears about safety and appropriate setbacks.
Tuesday, two of the men who spoke on behalf of the club, which has about 100 members, said they work as biologists, and have been keeping tabs on the lead issue.
Dave Carter, a gun club member who is on the club’s executive and environmental committee, said he has been a professional biologist for 25 years.
Carter said he knows how to take water samples, and he collected some in the worst case scenarios for lead contamination – during “high turbidity.”
They came back at less than half the government threshold, he said. That data is available to be shared.
Carter clarified that the club has not gone to regular Saturday shooting, but has only had one extra Saturday per month, which is published on the club’s website.
“We do try and be good neighbours,” he said, noting the club has invited people in the neighbourhood to its annual barbecue, and some attended.
“We’re feeling maybe a little bit disappointed by this, this evening,” he said of council’s decision to suspend operations.
“We benefit seniors, we benefit juniors. My kids grew up at the gun club. We care about safety and we care about the environment. So we’re very disappointed.”
Council voted to have a public information meeting, and to do more sound testing to determine whether the amount of noise is acceptable in the framework of the city’s noise bylaw.
Another gun club member from Port Moody, Mark Sekela, said he helped take lead samples, and has 30 years at the senior government level as an environmental scientist. He studies environmental impacts.
He said his kids have been shooting at the club for three years, and would never endanger them.
“The concern you people have about lead, is too much time on the Internet,” he said. “You actually need to learn the facts.
“You should probably be more concerned about the caffeine in your coffee.”
He said the lead shot “stays where it lands” and the highest lead levels found were upstream of the club, not downstream.
“We changed a sound issue into an environmental issue with lead,” he said.
A staff report noted the club has operated in Pitt Meadows since 1946, and in its present location since 1976, but there is no record of the city issuing a permit for the gun club.
Staff referred the lead contamination issue and health concerns to the Ministry of Environment.
The RCMP issues licences under the Firearms Act as a representative of the federal government, and past safety issues have been addressed at the club.
Still, the federal range licence will only be issued pending city referral.
The city’s role is to regulate land use, noise and some aspects of firearms discharge.
“Attempts to weave a solution have been challenging,” said city director of community services Kate Zanon. “This is not a clear-cut situation.”
Staff recommended shooting days be restricted to the traditional club hours of Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 6-9 p.m.
Additional days should be requested for special events.
Coun. Janis Elkerton said the club should have independent monitoring of environmental practices, and asked that a copy of the city’s concerns go to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare, who is also the Tourism Minister.
Coun. Bill Dingwall asserted that the gun club also needs to step up.
“There is an onus on the gun club and the membership to work with the community, to look at some mitigation strategies,” he said, whether the issues are safety, hours of operation or noise.
Coun. Mike Stark said the noise of gunfire needs more accurate measurements than were provided the first time.
“I have to see that number, and I have to have it verified on another monitor, and then I will support it, but not before,” he said.
Council not will notify all property owners within 500m of the club, approximately 85 properties, about the public information meeting. to be scheduled in January.