Gun license lifted in Williamsburg dispute

Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2016 8:52:09 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — A local man with a long-running beef over his neighbor’s shooting range is appealing the suspension of his firearms license and surrender of his guns.

Police Chief Denise Wickland in January suspended resident Keith Harmon Snow’s Class A large capacity license to carry firearms, citing a temporary restraining order taken out against Snow in New Hampshire by Robert C. Hodgkins III, of Chesterfield, New Hampshire.

“This along with your recent pattern of behavior and the suspicion of you violating open trespass orders against you has deemed you not a suitable person,” to hold the license, Wickland wrote in a license suspension order to Snow, of 84 Goshen Road.

Snow has had the Class A license since 2002 and a firearms identification card since the 1970s. After receiving the order, he immediately transferred ownership of 10 firearms to a third party, which he is entitled to do under the law. He filed an appeal this month in Northampton District Court.

“It’s unsubstantiated,” Snow said of the reasons Wickland cited. “I’m a respectful and responsible gun owner. I want it (the license) back.”

Hodgkins owns property at 74 Village Hill Road in Williamsburg — which abuts Snow’s property — where Hodgkins’ firing range has been the subject of controversy.

Snow has been ordered to stay off Hodgkins’ property, and Snow admitted in court to violating that trespass order in August 2015, a case that was continued without a finding for a year. Snow has campaigned to limit the noise and types of weapons used on Hodgkins’ land. The town in recent years has imposed several restrictions on the range’s use that are also subject of continuing legal actions.

In seeking a restraining order against Snow in New Hampshire in January, Hodgkins alleged that a specific threat by Snow in August 2015 during a heated exchange between the two caused Hodgkins to fear for his and his family’s safety, according to court documents. Snow disputed the allegation in court and a judge, who reviewed a recording of the argument, dismissed the restraining order in March.

“The court finds that this was a statement made in frustration by Mr. Snow over the shooting activities of Mr. Hodgkins — not intended as a threat to commit any act of violence against Mr. Hodgkins or his family,” Judge John C. Kissinger, of Cheshire Superior Court in New Hampshire, wrote in his decision.

The judge stated further that the court, “accepts Mr. Hodgkins’ testimony that he is fearful of Mr. Snow and Mr. Snow’s testimony that he has no intent to come to New Hampshire to harm Mr. Hodgkins and his family.”

Hodgkins runs a gun sales and manufacturing shop in Spofford, New Hampshire, called Highlander Arms.

In a telephone interview Friday, Hodgkins alleged that Snow has been harassing his family in Williamsburg for many years.

“We’re sick of it as a family,” Hodgkins said. “I think the guy is dangerous. Dangerous to himself and other people. I don’t think the guy should have firearms.”

In an affidavit to the court, Hodgkins wrote that Snow “scares me to death,” and that he was “certainly feeling the heat from Mr. Snow in New Hampshire.”

Among the allegations by Hodgkins is that Snow contacted the New Hampshire Department of Children, Youth and Families in regard to Hodgkins’ children and their exposure to guns.

Coincidentally, Snow’s home on Goshen Road was severely damaged by a chimney fire last week, which some gun advocates celebrated online.

Disputes allegations

Snow said last week that the allegations in Hodgkins’ complaint were fabricated and that the temporary restraining order against him was “based on false charges.”

“I’ve never done any of those things,” he said of the allegations Hodgkins brought to court. “Never.”

Snow said the fact that he is a longtime gun owner should dispel the notion that his problems with Hodgkins’ shooting activities in Williamsburg are rooted in anti-gun sentiment.

“They always argued that everybody who is fighting the shooting range is anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment,” Snow said.

Asked about her decision to suspend Snow’s firearms license, Wickland, the town’s police chief and licensing authority, said the restraining order in New Hampshire was a factor. However, she declined to provide specifics about Snow’s “recent pattern of behavior” that she also cited.

“I don’t want to violate any of Mr. Snow’s rights,” Wickland said. “This is just information we had on hand that involved him in the past.”

Wickland said she advised Snow of his right to appeal her decision in court and noted that he is not the first person to have his firearms license suspended in town.

“It happens when it needs to happen,” she said.

In related developments, a clerk magistrate hearing is scheduled next month on an appeal by Hodgkins against the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which placed new and more specific restrictions on the use of his land as a shooting range in December 2015.

Building Commissioner Louis Hasbrouck in February issued a $100 fine to Hodgkins after determining Hodgkins allegedly violated several of those conditions, including use of a semi-automatic weapon on the property. Hasbrouck issued the fine after investigating a complaint.

On Friday, a resident emailed another complaint to the building commissioner’s office which stated that her “house shook” from what sounded like “bombs going off” about 5 p.m. Thursday. Hasbrouck said he plans to visit the property and investigate.

“I’ll look for evidence of explosives,” he said.

Asked about the alleged blasts, Hodgkins said from New Hampshire that it was “probably someone shooting.”

“We get credit for every gunshot that goes off in Williamsburg,” he said.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.




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