Ashfield Selectboard opts against pursuing gun noise regulations

Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2022 6:20:37 PM
Modified: 11/28/2022 6:18:13 PM

ASHFIELD — Following a well-attended forum about gun noise earlier this month, the Selectboard has decided not to move forward with creating new bylaws that would regulate gun noise.

“I’m afraid if bylaws were proposed it would end up with the town in a legal battle we wouldn’t want to pay for,” explained Selectboard member Steven Gougeon.

Residents first complained to the Selectboard regarding gun noise on West Road about a year ago. According to Gougeon, the Selectboard sought legal advice at that time, but board members were told the state attorney general would most likely stop any attempted regulation due to gun use being constitutionally protected.

After more complaints, the Selectboard held a forum about the issue on Nov. 14. More than 100 people attended to share their perspectives.

The gun noise problem at 620 West Road, owned by full-time Wellesley resident Jacky K.D. Shi who visits Ashfield on weekends for recreational activities, was reportedly resolved before the forum took place. After several attempts to reach Shi, former Ashfield resident Keith Harmon Snow visited Shi’s home in Wellesley to explain the situation. According to Harmon Snow, Shi did not realize his land was in the vicinity of other people’s homes and that his gunfire was disturbing neighbors. Harmon Snow claims that Shi, who did not attend the Nov. 14 forum, hopes to work with neighbors in the future.

However, Ashfield resident Lauren Mills proposed a new ordinance to regulate gun noise. Her proposal’s language, outlined at the public forum, states it would be unlawful for anyone “to make, permit, continue, or cause to be made or to create any unreasonably loud and disturbing noise in Ashfield.” The determination of what was unreasonably loud or disturbing would be made based on a variety of factors, including proximity to residential structures, and violations would be punishable by $200 fines.

Any resident who collects at least 10 signatures can bring a proposed bylaw to a Town Meeting vote. However, Gougeon explained, any such bylaw would still be subject to approval from the state attorney general. The bylaw would likely not be approved due to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protecting gun ownership.

In reaching its decision not to pursue new ordinances, Gougeon noted that town officials “took a lot of our cues from Williamsburg.” The Hampshire County town was unsuccessful in attempting to regulate gun noise coming from a home gun range, leading Ashfield officials to believe they will be unable to regulate the gun noise in their town. Officials can regulate commercial gun ranges only; they are unable to codify and restrict home gun ranges as long as the ranges follow proper setbacks, according to Gougeon.

Following nine years of contentious debate concerning shooting activities at 74 Village Hill Road in Williamsburg, the state Superior Court ruled in December 2019 that the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals had improperly imposed conditions crafted to control gun noise there. In his decision, Judge John Agostini reversed in part and remanded back to the ZBA its 2017 vote on the shooting range, stating that seven of the board’s 14 regulatory conditions concerned noise reduction and that those conditions are “unlawful and unenforceable.”

Agostini noted that state law shields shooting ranges from civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution related to noise produced by gunfire.

“This statute unmistakably exempts the plaintiffs from any civil action or criminal prosecution relating to the town of Williamsburg noise bylaw,” Agostini wrote in his decision. Any restrictions imposed on shooting activity at the property had to be clearly explained and specifically related to public safety, he said.

Despite not making plans to change any bylaws, Gougeon said he was pleased with the respect presented at Ashfield’s public forum.

“This particular issue was concluded the best way possible,” he said.

Bella Levavi can be reached at or 413-930-4579.


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