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Islip approves gun range contract with U.S. Marshals

A man fires a rifle at the Islip

A man fires a rifle at the Islip Town Shooting Range in Islip, Sept. 13, 2014. Credit: Ed Betz

The Islip Town Council at a board meeting Tuesday night approved by a split vote a controversial one-year contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to use the town-owned outdoor gun range.

More than a dozen Islip residents spoke at the 7 p.m. meeting, some in favor of Islip Rifle, Pistol and Archery Range, citing Second Amendment rights. Others, who live nearby, railed against the contract and played for the packed board room audio recordings of the gunshot sounds they say pollute their neighborhood.

Town Board members Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Anthony S. Senft cast votes against the $28,600 contract, while Supervisor Tom Croci and Councilmen John C. Cochrane Jr. and Steven J. Flotteron voted to approve it. The measure failed at the last board meeting two weeks ago on a 2-2 vote.

Cochrane said he wants to see the range become "modernized" to help mitigate noise and ensure public safety, but that firing ranges like Islip's provide training space for "the most important act that that law enforcement person is going to do."

Many in favor of the gun range -- established about 1960 -- said it was built well before the homes were constructed nearby and pleaded with the town board to keep the range open. Closing the gun range was never proposed.

Kim Loeffler, who submitted 100 signatures from neighbors demanding change at a board meeting last month, said the neighbors are not seeking to have the range closed, but rather to mitigate the noise and keep law enforcement from using it.

"We are not seeking to shut your range down, we are seeking for the federal government to not be there," Loeffler said at the meeting. "They were not there when I bought that house . . . we listen to the gunshots day in and day out."

The contract has an option to be renewed in a year for $31,200.

During business hours on weekdays, the range is used by law enforcement groups -- including federal marshals that use it on a per-session basis -- as well as agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and state and county court officers. The 28 firing stations are open to the public on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Two rows of homes, to the west of the property and to the north, across Spur Drive South, bear the brunt of the noise, neighbors said. The town, which implemented sound abatement measures last September, said a plan is in the works to solve the issue.

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