20 Aug 2014
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Committee Struggles Over Firearms Ordinance Wording

Precise wording is seen as important for making the ordinance enforceable.

Committee Struggles Over Firearms Ordinance Wording

If the Legislative Council’s Ordinance Committee’s aim is true, they will end up with a town ordinance that allows local police to enforce rules similar to the state’s hunting regulations, but applicable to target shooting as well.

But that will require wording that hits the bull’s-eye, which the committee struggled over at its meeting Wednesday.

Committee members spent about 10 minutes discussing a minor wording change suggested by Police Chief Michael Kehoe to make it clear that the ordinance would prohibit shooting within 500 feet of any building housing people or domesticated animals without the written permission of the building owners.

The problem with Kehoe’s suggested wording, for some committee members, was it left open to interpretation exactly which building owners needed to give permission.

At another point, the committee members spent several minutes hashing over whether they should replace “hunting weapon” with different wording to make it clear the intention of the ordinance was to apply to all firearms, not simply those used for hunting.

The reason “hunting weapon” appeared in the draft was because that is the exact wording that appears in the state hunting regulations.

But the new direction of the committee has satisfied local gun owners. About 20 gun owners attended the meeting and they were far less spirited than the 75 or so who turned out in September to voice their opposition to a previous version of the proposed ordinance that they saw as too restrictive.

Lawyer Andrew Buzzi, a member of the Fairfield County Fish and Game Club, told the committee that he and other local sportsmen appreciate the work that the committee has done to improve the ordinance over the other version.

The original version was proposed by the Newtown Police Commission to address complaints that the police and the first selectman’s office have received over the years from residents concerned about neighbors shooting nearby.

That proposal would have restricted target shooting on private property without the prior permission of the police chief.

Committee Chairman Mary Ann Jacob said she would forward the new wording to Kehoe and the town attorney for their opinions.

The committee will take a break over the holidays and hold its next meeting on the ordinance on Jan. 9, 2013.

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