Friendly fire - Soundings Online

Friendly fire

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OCT. 2 — The U.S. Coast Guard’s plans to set up offshore machine-gun ranges around the Great Lakes have sparked concern from local pleasure boaters.

“The problem with a live-fire range on a lake is it’s invisible,” Bob Elliot, commodore of New York’s Genesee Yacht Club says in a report in the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. “It’s not like on land. There aren’t any fences or signs.”

The Coast Guard is looking to create 34 ranges for machine gun operators to shoot at floating targets, according to the news report. The ranges would be used twice per year for about four to six hours as part of machine gun operators’ semiannual qualifications. They would be five miles off U.S. and Canadian shores.

Coast Guard officials would enforce safety zones around the ranges when they are in use, the report says. The safety zones would not be marked by buoys or other physical barriers.

“The only thing I’m concerned about is a bullet ricocheting off the water and hitting someone on my boat,” Sam Zucco, president of the Genesee Charter Boat Association, says in the report. Zucco, like a number of other Great Lakes boaters, thinks the Coast Guard should hold a public hearing about the proposal.

“There are going to be all kinds of people who are going to have questions on this,” Elliot says. “An informational meeting would give them a chance to ask them.”

The Coast Guard extended the public comment period to the middle of November, says the report, but no public hearings have been set.

? Jason Fell