Rep. Potter’s legislation to keep outdoor gun ranges away from schools heard in committee


STATE HOUSE – At two schools in Cranston, the sound of nearby gunfire is so common some students say they don’t even notice it anymore. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Brandon Potter to give these students and faculty some relief was heard in the House Judiciary committee Tuesday.

“This bill is based on a simple premise, which is that I don’t believe that students should be listening to the sound of gunfire while they are in the classroom,” said Representative Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston). “Students today face many challenges, but being distracted by gunfire while they are learning shouldn’t be one of them.”

This legislation (2024-H 7051) would prohibit an outdoor gun range from being used for shooting firearms within a one mile circumference of any kindergarten through grade twelve school and its grounds and connected sports fields. Indoor gun ranges, which emit much less noise into their surrounding neighborhoods, would be exempt from this bill.

“This is not an anti-gun bill and it is not an anti-shooting range bill,” said Representative Potter. “I respect the right of people to safely learn how to operate their firearms. I realize that people enjoy shooting outside rather than inside. But I do not believe that we should be shooting outdoors in immediate proximity to schools while children are in the classroom. I’m sure there are reasonable alternatives we can find so that when children are going to school they are not listening to gunfire outside their windows.”

Another concern for Representative Potter is that the effect of regular gunfire limits the effectiveness of active shooter drills.

“I hear from parents in Cranston who are concerned about if students will react to an active shooting situation when they are used to hearing gunfire all day,” said Representative Potter. “We are desensitizing students to the sound of gunfire by normalizing it and that makes them less safe in the event they do need to react quickly.”

A study from the Community Noise Lab of Brown University in 2023 noted complaints from teachers and students about the impact of the gunfire noise on classroom learning, and showed that gunfire noise from the Cranston shooting range peaked at 82 decibels in the surrounding neighborhood. Cranston’s noise ordinance for residential neighborhoods is 55 decibels.

Representative Potter first became aware of this issue when he heard complaints from constituents in his district about the outdoor gun range at the Cranston Police Academy, which is across the street from Cranston High School West and Western Hills Middle School.

“I heard of a new teacher at Cranston High hearing the gunfire and going into active shooter protocol, to the laughter of her students,” said Representative Potter. “Visiting sports teams from other municipalities have dropped to the ground on their stomachs when they hear the sound of gunfire.”

Representative Potter himself attended Cranston High School West in the early 2000s, but he learned that the noise from the range had increased since his time, due to higher usage by more officers and the use of larger and louder firearms. He has since learned about at least three other municipalities with similar issues.

This bill was held for further study as the committee reviews the extensive public testimony submitted for this bill.