Gun club responds

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:47 PM

"No blue sky" is exactly what Cutter Park residents want from the North Ottawa Rod and Gun Club.

“'No blue sky' means you point your gun down the range, then you chamber the bullet,” said Steve Woiteshek, a gun club board member who is also a safety officer and instructor. “This sort of thing (moving his arms from side to side) shouldn’t happen.”

But the club’s ability to make sure that happens is still a concern to at least one resident of the nearby Grand Haven Township neighborhood.

“This is exactly what we requested — 'no blue sky' as a minimum safety requirement,” said Jeremey Wilder. “But I want some independent verification.”

Wilder and 13 other Cutter Park residents attended an informal presentation Tuesday night on safety improvements planned at the gun club’s property on 160th Avenue, a half-mile west of the subdivision.

The presentation comes 20 months after the gun club came under fire when bullets fired from a club range landed on houses in the subdivision. On Sept. 29, 2011, a bullet also landed in the arm of a contractor standing in the driveway of a Cutter Park home.

Officers from the Grand Valley State University Department of Public Safety were training at the range that day. An investigation conducted by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department revealed that the officers fired bullets too far away from berms, and some traveled to the subdivision and hit houses there.

No criminal charges were filed, but the gun club indefinitely suspended all law enforcement training on the range as of November 2011.

Gun club member Dave Cleveringa said "no blue sky" also means the shooter can’t see the sky because of baffles, brows or canopies in place. The position of the shooter and the safety devices are designed to keep any bullets from leaving the shooting range, he said.

Cleveringa and Woiteshek used a laser light on models to demonstrate how the baffles and lattices would work to help keep any errant bullets from flying out of the rifle and pistol range. They also had a sample of a baffle filled with pea gravel, which would spread out the energy of a bullet if it was hit.

Cleveringa noted that a variety of bullets were tested on the baffle — some of which would never be allowed at the shooting range — and none of them penetrated very far into it.

Woiteshek detailed 18 suggestions for changes made by a National Rifle Association range evaluator. He said the club planned to implement or improve on all of them.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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