Let the shootin’ begin

The Butte County Planning Commission gave the Paradise Rod and Gun Club the green light to open last week, but members shouldn’t start firing celebratory shots into the air just yet.

More than a hundred supporters of the club, almost all of them wearing stickers that read, “I support the club,” filed into the Board of Supervisors’ meeting room June 14 for the contentious meeting. After more than two hours of testimony for and against the club, the Planning Commission voted 3-1 in favor of granting it a use permit—in effect, allowing it to open.

Gun club organizers plan to use the 40-acre area—located on the Skyway near the Tuscan Ridge Golf Course—for 25 shooting sites, including pistol, rifle and trap shooting. It will also have a fly-casting area, an archery range and a picnic area, according to county documents.

It will be open from 9 a.m. until sundown every day and allow members only to practice their shooting at the club. It will also be open to law enforcement officers once a month for practice. There are approximately 200 gun club members, said spokesman Ron Fry. All members are required to be members of the National Rifle Association, be approved by an executive board, and “be of good character,” Fry said. Dues are $50 a year.

Butte County Sheriff Scott Mackenzie and Paradise Police Chief Paul Walters, among other law enforcement bigwigs, spoke in support of the club, saying that it would be a “valuable asset” for police and sheriff’s deputies training.

However, neighbors of the site were infuriated by the commission’s approval and vowed immediately to appeal it to the Board of Supervisors. They complained that members of the club continued to illegally shoot there after the Board of Supervisors denied it a previous use permit three years ago.

The club operated at a smaller Magalia facility before it moved to the current Skyway site, said Paradise Sporting Goods owner David Bryning. The Planning Commission approved a use permit for a broader list of uses at the club in 1998, but neighbors organized opposition against it and the Board of Supervisors denied the permit on appeal. Since then, the club has been officially closed, but neighbors claim members have used it illegally anyway.

But spokesman Fry said that if there’s any illegal shooting going on in the area, it isn’t being done by club members. He noted that several area residents have private target shooting ranges on their properties.

Fry said that since an appeal to the commission’s decision has been filed, the club will remain closed until the supervisors make a final decision on the matter.