By Richard L. Gaw
Kennett Township is in the draft stages of formulating a township ordinance designed to regulate and restrict the use and discharge of firearms, it was announced at the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 15.
The ordinance, being written by township solicitor Bob Adams, comes in the wake of a grievance made with the township by several local residents, who have complained about the discharge of firearms heard throughout the area by gun owners practicing target shooting. At the Board of Supervisors meeting on June 26, 30 township residents packed the township building to air their grievances, at which time they asked the township to put firearm regulations in place.
Although residents said that the rifle sounds can be heard from different points, they specifically targeted an eight-acre property at 102 Center Mill Rd., and homeowner Dr. Morris Peterzell, 52, a physician specializing in osteopathic manipulative medicine. Currently, those using firearms for shooting practice are protected under the Uniform Firearms Act, 18 Pa. C.S.A. Section 6106(b)(4), which states that individuals are permitted to target shoot on private property and are not required to hold a license in order to shoot.
The draft of the ordinance was made available to those attending the July 15 meeting. The ordinance states that its enactment "will help mitigate the potential dangers presented by unregulated firearms use, particularly in residential areas and other locations where the firing of guns can present a serious danger to the safety and well-being of residents and visitors of the township."
Under the restrictions, firearms and shotguns may not be discharged within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling house, residence or other building or camp, or any barn, stable, or other building, such as a playground, school, nursery school or day care center. Further, firearm discharge will not be permitted within 100 yards of a property line; no shell, shell or bullet may cross a property line; no discharge will be permitted without an adequate backstop; and no discharge will be allowed between 7:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Those violating these regulations will be subject to a $300 fine, and if payment is not made, the gun owner will be imprisoned for no more than 30 days.
It was made clearl to residents attending the July 15 meeting that the ordinance is still in the discussion stage, and a 20-minute open dialogue between supervisors and township residents about the draft gave evidence that public input may find its way into possible legislation.
Township manager Lisa Moore said that she had distributed the ordinance draft to all residents who asked to receive it, and said that before it is enacted it into law, the draft still needs to be reviewed by Adams, supervisors Michael Elling, Robert Hammaker and Scudder Stevens, and potentially the township's Planning Commission.
Township resident Ted Moxon questioned the timing of the proposed ordinance, and suggested that the township attempt to "exhaust some civil remedies beyond legislative remedies. It seems that the township is ready to pass an ordinance based on one incident of an individual having some major disputes with his neighbors," he said.
Disputing Moxon's claim, township resident George Swain said that the cause of the resident's grievances was not targeted just at Peterzell. "This is not a single individual," Swain said. "This is a repetitive action by multiple individuals throughout the township, based on unsafe acts which cause many township residents to fear for their lives when they go outside."
Moxon later said, "I would hope that the supervisors would make some attempt to try to include the thoughts of the people who are creating this situation, in this discussion," making reference to Peterzell, who was not present at the meeting.
In attempting to draft, write and ultimately pass firearm legislation of its own, Kennett Township has been studying similar ordinances enacted by other townships and municipalities. One such municipality -- Fallowfield Township in Washington County, Pa. - has an ordinance on the books that closely resembles the draft that Kennett Township is writing. That ordinance states that no firearm discharge is permitted within 150 yards of any occupied dwelling house, residence, or other building or camp occupied by human beings, or any barn, stable, or other building used in connection to a playground, school, nursery school or day care center. Further, the ordinance prohibits firearm discharge within 100 yards of a property line; and that no shell, bullet or projectile may cross a property line; that target shooting be done with an adequate backstop; and that shooting is not permitted to take place between 7:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Township police chief Albert McCarthy has met with Peterzell and had tried to arrange a meeting between Peterzell and concerned residents. McCarthy said that the meeting has yet to take place.