A judge in Vermont ordered the owner of a contentious firearms training center to be detained until he can verify that elements of the 30-acre site have been removed or dismantled.
Slate Ridge is a property with various structures and two fire ranges on the terrain the size of 30 football fields (12 hectares). The town of Pawlet has tried unsuccessfully for several years to convince firearms training center owner Daniel Banyai to dismantle facilities he built without a permit, fueled by complaints from neighbors.
The Vermont Environmental Court ruling is the latest attempt to bring Banyai accountable, following more than $100,000 in fines this year. The arrest, which can be made by a constable or a county sheriff, must take place within the next 60 days.
Firearms training center owner Banyai could not be reached for comment, and his lawyer did not respond to a request for comment right away. Pawlet’s lawyer declined to comment on the order.
Neighbors in Slate Ridge have long complained about the shooting at the firearms training center and what they call threats and intimidation by Banyai and his supporters. Many neighbors claim they are hesitant to speak out in public because they are concerned about their safety.
Banyai described his property, where his firearms training center is built, to The Associated Press in April 2021 as a safe and environmentally friendly location for people to discharge their firearms. The firearms training center also teaches first aid and “anything to do with the outdoors and firearms.”
The town first issued a violation notice to Banyai in 2019 for constructing many structures on the land without town zoning authority. Banyai was ordered by the Environmental Court in March 2021 to stop all firearms training at the firearms training center and to dismantle any unpermitted buildings.
In January 2022, the Vermont Supreme Court rejected Banyai’s appeal for his firearms training center
In reaction to Slate Ridge, Vermont State Sen. Philip Baruth, a Democrat and Progressive from Burlington, presented legislation this year in the Vermont Legislature to prohibit the firearms training centers in the state. Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed the bill into law in May.
According to the statute, violators face up to five years in prison, a $50,000 fine, or both. It forbids anybody from teaching, training, or exhibiting to others the use, application, or manufacture of a firearm, explosive, or incendiary device capable of causing injury or death that will be used in or in furtherance of civil unrest. It also prohibits gathering with others for such training, instruction, or practice.
Banyai purchased the property in 2013. He began operating what he calls a firearms training center in 2017, despite the fact that the site is only permitted for a garage with an apartment on the grounds.