After receiving a complaint that students and teachers could hear gunfire from their classrooms at the Tuckahoe School four days after the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley has ordered the police firing range closed while school is in session.
Epley said Friday that a group of officers with the Southampton Village Police Department used the range — which is about a half mile from the school — on Dec. 18 for firearms training. The following day, a Tuckahoe School Board member called him, and he in turn called Police Chief Thomas Cummings and gave the executive order.
"In the wake of the incident in Connecticut, it's very disturbing for children and teachers and parents ..." Epley told Patch Friday. “From a pure community relations standpoint and making kids feel safe in their learning environment, there is no reason that they should use the range while the school is open.”
“Kids are in school 180 days a year," the mayor said. "One-hundred-and-eighty-five days, they can do training."
The range is owned by Southampton Village, though it is located outside of the village's boundaries. Epley said the village acquired the parcel in the 1940s, and it is also used for brush and leaves storage and fire department training. “It's just kind of an out-of-the-way area,” he said.
Epley said he has received complaints about the range in the past, including from neighbors disturbed by the noise on Saturdays. But he has no intention of closing the range. “That firing range has been in place for decades and we're not going to shut it down," he said. "It’s extremely safe.” He added that the firearms instructors are all trained and certified.
Living about a mile from the range, Epley said he has hear "pops" at his house while it is in use.
Two days after the Newtown shooting, Nancy Miller, who lives across the street from the Tuckahoe School, called on the village to stop using the range altogether. "The police budget should be able to bus the officers to a more appropriate facility," she wrote to Patch. A sign was posted at the entrance to the Tuckahoe Woods trails, reading, "Does a firing range belong here? Contact your local representative."
"They have hosted a tri-state automatic weapons class there," Miller said. "Police from New Jersey, Connecticut and New York were there. The loud sounds of guns blasting in the day and through the night could be heard inside the school building. This was during parent-teacher conferences, on a warm day with the windows to the school opened. It disturbed me at the time that no one took issue with this. In light of the recent events in Connecticut I am hoping there will be public dissent to having assault rifle sounds near a school."
Epley said that in the past, the range has been used for tri-state training. He explained that East End police departments wanted to have a certain firearms class offered locally, so the village police offered their range.