By Guy Page
The proposed Mendon firearms discharge ordinance has been tabled while town officials gather more information and evaluate citizen comments from a March 15 hearing, Town Administrator Sara Tully told Vermont Daily today.
The ordinance as proposed says “No person shall discharge a firearm or air gun within 500 feet of the travelled way of a town road or highway, state highway, designated hiking trail, or habitable Building,” and “No person shall discharge, or cause to be discharged, any firearm, between the hours of 8 pm and 8 am,” with some exceptions.
Last night, the selectboard discussed how to proceed in light of the March 15 public hearing, at which a large crowd opposing the ordinance by a 3-1 margin let their views be known. 63 people attended the public hearing, and 25 letters were submitted. A petition signed by 116 people, including 21 associated with Mendon addresses, was submitted, Tully said.
“All of that information is being digested,” the administrator said. “We will consider amendments to the proposed ordinance, or potentially pursue a different solution to the problem.” The Town will be reaching out to the State Police and game wardens regarding state firearm discharge laws.
No date has been set for future discussion. If an amendment is made, another public hearing will be scheduled, Tully said.
In the official minutes of the March 15 hearing, town officials the ordinance “has nothing to do with second amendment rights, It has to do with safety.”
On that point, many attendees disagreed. Here’s just one example culled from many pages of comments:
“I submitted a letter to the Selectboard signed by 34 individuals and property owners in Mendon. This ordinance is unnecessary because state and federal laws specifically prevent municipalities from regulating firearms. It is an erosion of our heritage and I request that we declare Menden a Second Amendment sanctuary….. 21 towns to date in Vermont have passed this resolution.”
The owner of a sandpit who teaches youth to shoot there objected strongly:
“My family owns 275 acres in Mendon on two parcels. I take youth and novice hunters out on my land and shoot in a sandpit. The ordinance prohibits me to shoot in arguably one of the safest places to shoot in Mendon. We are only a few hundred feet from a building and neighboring property. The way the ordinance is written you have to be 500 feet from the road but you can shoot back towards the road which is dangerous. I don’t support that you can’t shoot within a distance of any structure. A neighbor can put up a camper on my property line and prevent me from shooting. You need to deal with the root cause of the problem rather than use ordinances as a band-aid, not in favor of it.”
Not everyone opposed the ordinance:
“I support the ordinance. We live here because it’s the safest place. It is not about gun ownership or noise, it’s about safety and not have to worry about stray bullets, I want to be able to enjoy my property and feel safe.”
But most thought the ordinance unnecessary or at least overkill:
“This is an example of how to kill a house fly with a sledgehammer. This ordinance will adversely affect VAST trails. For some people hearing gunfire make them fear guns. There is some danger inflating that associates just hearing gunfire with inherent danger. Regulating the discharge of firearms to land owners of certain size is discrimination. Reach out to the Fish and Wildlife Department to be educated on current state laws that already exist. I oppose the ordinance.”