Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill into law Tuesday that aims to protect outdoor sport shooting ranges that are being affected by increased rural development across Maine.

The law prohibits local ordinances or lawsuits that would limit the operation of existing ranges or force them to close based on noise complaints or longstanding shooting activities. The House and Senate approved the bill last week.

The law allows municipalities to regulate substantial changes in the use of ranges, but it makes clear that gun clubs can maintain, repair and improve ranges, especially to increase safety and handicapped accessibility.

Supporters of the bill said more than 100 sport shooting ranges across the state are threatened by increasing rural development, challenging their futures and Maine’s hunting heritage. They include the Spurwink Rod & Gun Club in Cape Elizabeth, a 60-year-old organization that in recent years has been the target of noise and safety complaints from new residential neighbors.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Tammy Walter, Spurwink’s president, said Wednesday. “This was (about a) principle, not a vendetta.”

The law doesn’t insulate ranges from lawsuits based on negligence or recklessness in the operation or use of the range. It stipulates that ranges must conform “to generally accepted gun safety and shooting range operation practices” and be “constructed in a manner not reasonably expected to allow a projectile to cross the boundary of the range.”

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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