Shell shock on Peavine II

A northwest Reno resident’s crusade began when bullets whizzed past his head on Peavine Mountain.

This is the second of three columns on the recreational uses of Peavine Mountain.
His Subaru Outback has boxes of plastic bags filled with high-powered rifle casings that he’s picked from the ground. He doesn’t bother collecting obviously old shells, casings from .22-caliber rifles or shotgun shells.

“And you can see there are plenty of both around here,” he tells me, looking at the ground. It’s littered with spent ammo.

James Calkins, Truckee attorney and resident of northwest Reno, also has printouts with tables and numbers that indicate how close several schools are to this site used as an makeshift shooting range. It’s not far from where Robb Drive turns into a dirt road that winds up the south side of Peavine Mountain. In fact, Interstate 80, about 2.5 miles away, is within the three-mile or more range of a high-powered rifle, Calkins says.

Results of a petition that Calkins circulated in the neighborhood indicate that 306 residents wanted some kind of a ban on firearms used on Peavine. Given the amount of time and energy Calkins has invested on this issue, I’d have figured him for a retired guy. He’s not. So what started this 55-year-old professional on his Peavine crusade?

One Saturday afternoon in September—in fact, the first Saturday after Sept. 11—Calkins went hiking up Peavine. He points up to the knoll a few hundred yards above and to the east of such targets as rusty appliances, a mutilated car and an old chair. He sat looking down over the valley peacefully when he heard a shooter fire off a round that came too close for comfort.

“I could hear the hissing sound as the bullets whizzed by,” he says.

“Didn’t he see you?”

“He saw me through his telescopic lens.”

Calkins felt like he’d been given a message by the shooter, that Calkins was an unwelcome intruder in this neck of the desert mountain. Calkins called the police. When sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, they frisked Calkins and then the shooter. Calkins says he was told that if he wanted to file a complaint, he’d have to find an expert to prove that the shots had been fired within a congested area—that is, within 5,000 feet of residences. His battle had begun.

Now Calkins and his wife start their hikes extremely early in the morning to avoid having to walk through the line of fire to get to the best trails. But on the way down the mountain later in the day, they’re “sitting ducks,” he says.

When he talks to law enforcement officials these days, Calkins hears that the Sheriff’s Department is working on a plan. But since the area is already deemed congested (less than half a mile from Robb Drive Elementary School), Calkins says a plan should already exist. It just needs implementation.

“First, get the county sanitation department to come out and clean up. I’ll bet you have to dig a foot down to get all the embedded shells and casings. Then post provisions, like the signs on the Mount Rose Highway going to Galena Creek. That’s got one-tenth the residential density of here—yet they’ve got signs, and we’ve got nothing. Then, thirdly, enforce the ordinance.

"As a taxpayer, I pay thousands of dollars a year to federal, state and local governments. … I pay to be protected. I want better service for what I’m paying them."