I'm about to submit the following either as a comment to the Homer News article, or as a separate LTE, because I just have to speak up.
When I first happened across Ohlson Mountain as a potential site for shooting, it struck me specifically that there were none of the usual prohibitions on the public's use of the site. On one hand, it seemed a refreshing change from the rest of our sad society which seems to respond to every conceivable free-choice scenario with prohibition, restriction and regulation. I spent quite some time making sure I wasn't missing something obvious (including visually confirming the depth of every prospective backstop) before partaking myself, and have since valued the site immensely as a local place to go, that notably does not insult the intelligence of that wide majority of us for whom no regulation is, or ever will be, necessary.
On the other hand, being an acute observer of the depressing march of "progress", there was another part of me that said, in parallel, "it's only a matter of time before someone does something legitimately stupid, and someone else decides that the answer is to use the power of the state to forcibly keep everyone out, including everyone who neither has done nor ever will do anything wrong."
And so, here we go, it seems. Again.
I can certainly sympathize with the property owners here. If it were my property, I would want to mitigate the risk of stray rounds as well. But it is wrong to ask the state (in the guise of troopers, the borough, etc) to act as your own personal enforcement apparatus. It is also wrong to trade our bedrock principle of individual accountability, for the historically empty promise that if we punish everyone equally, we'll all somehow benefit; this is precisely the logic that has brought us the disastrous War on (Some) Drugs.
The worst part about this sort of thoroughly Faustian pact is that it doesn't even get people what they want. Simply closing off the land by decree is no guarantee of increased safety. Any one of us who discharges any round, anywhere, at any time, is already--and properly--personally liable for what happens between the time the loud noise happens and the time the projectile stops. We also tend to forget that although we are all taught that the state is here to "protect" us, the courts have repeatedly ruled that the state is under NO obligation to protect any one of us individually, at all--to the considerable surprise of some who counted on it. And it should be obvious, by now, using the War on Drugs and PATRIOT Act (as but two) examples, that the strategy of using the power of the state to control the behavior of others comes at a far heavier price than any benefit it might bestow.
I've been around long enough to know that these thoughts will most likely be ignored, usually with impunity. Why, then, do I write them? Because if people would be willing to consider a more rational approach to such a dilemma, they just might be surprised at what could happen. I note with some sadness that nobody seems to have suggested the obvious "let's treat each other like adults" suggestion: that simply raising the awareness of the risks involved might achieve what is needed here, without resorting to yet another decree that the decent don't need and the malicious or stupid will ignore anyway.
If it were my property downrange, the very first thing I would do is try to encourage volunteer signage at the backstops, informing people both of their responsibility for every round fired, and also of the simple fact that people live down there*. (Jeff Cooper's Four Rules would be a great inclusion too, btw.) I'd put the word out in newspapers, at the chamber, and at businesses that would agree to help me spread the word. As well, I'd probably make regular visits to the site when people are likely to be shooting, to introduce myself and put a face on the downrange risk. I'd ask the regulars if they'd do me the favor of looking out for me, making sure others were aware of the risks and even notifying me if someone refused to stop doing something stupid. In short, I'd appeal to my community, and ask others to help me out. I could not, in conscience, call upon the state to force everyone out on my behalf.
The usual response to this is that I cannot, in fact, trust my neighbors, who must instead be forcibly controlled for the greater safety of all of us.
Really? Is that what we're about here? Because that's not what I'm about.
* Personally, I'd be there in a heartbeat, and would work vigorously to bring others of like mind.
I know, pissing in the wind. Maybe I'm missing the hate mail, or something. :-)