To some residents of the small, rural community of Potlatch, Idaho, the sound of gunfire ringing in the distance is a sign of progress, economic expansion, and jobs. To others, it’s just plain annoying.
On Sept. 19, at a public hearing, the Latah County Zoning Commission listened to both sides, so that it could make a determination about how to best address the issue.
See, Potlatch is the new home of ammunition maker PNW Arms, which recently left Seattle to join the more gun-friendly environs of this former timber town that now specifically caters to “recreational technology” companies aka firearms and outdoor accessories manufacturers (see video for details).
The noise complaints are coming from neighbors who live near a PNW firing range just north of Potlatch. And, according to Michelle Fuson, Latah County Planning and Building director, PNW has been operating the range without a conditional use permit for several months.
At the hearing, PNW filed an application to keep the existing range up and running and also requested permission to build another range south of its facilities, one that will be designed for private use as well as training law enforcement.
Being sensitive to both parties, the commission reached a compromise, allowing PNW to keep the range operational so long as it takes initiative to mitigate noise levels. As for the construction of the second range, the commission will rule on that in October.
“The company could use any number of methods to try to reduce the sound,” Michelle Fuson told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. “The zoning commission made the condition as vague as possible to allow them as much flexibility to mitigate the noise concerns of the neighbors.”
Mayor Dave Brown voiced concern over this little incident. He, along with other members of the community, have been aggressively recruiting recreational manufacturers for the city’s River Ridge Recreational Technology Center, a project that seeks to turn the old sawmill site into a thriving place for business.
Brown worries that if the zoning commission or disgruntled neighbors are too bullheaded about noise, it could put a damper on development.
“I’m concerned that this is going to give our project kind of a black eye, I guess,” Brown told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. “… It’s just where we live. We have guns going off. We have motorcycles running. We have snowmobiles in the winter.”
Currently, the Idaho Department of Labor has a two-year workforce development training fund contract with PNW that ends next September, according to Jenny Hemly who spoke to the M-P Daily news.
Under the terms of the agreement, PNW is “committed to hiring 30 employees at $15.90 an hour in that time with the labor department reimbursing the manufacturer’s training costs.”
“Bullet manufacturing, it’s not a skill that’s out there,” Roger Madsen, director for the Idaho Department of said, “but if they hire someone with the right aptitude, they can do their training in-house and we can help them with the cost.”
Overall, and despite the little bump in the road in Potlatch, it seems that the people of Idaho are committed to fostering mutually beneficial relationships with firearms and ammunition manufacturers. In the end, for gun makers, Idaho is where you want to be.