By Richard L. Gaw
Although the gunshots in Kennett Township will continue to be heard, the scope of their range and the time of their usage have both been shrunken.
After hammering out two controversial issues within the framework of its design, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors reached a compromise that allowed the township's ordinance restricting firearm usage to be passed. The ordinance, entitled, "Regulation of the Discharge of Firearms," was passed at a Sept. 3 work session by supervisors Scudder Stevens and Robert Hammaker. Board Chairman Michael Elling was not present at the meeting.
The ordinance, which went into effect on Sept. 8, is intended "to secure the safety of persons and property within the Township and to maintain peace and order in the Township," as stated in its purpose. Under its restrictions, township residents who wish to use firearms for target practice on their property must limit the range of their shooting to beyond 150 yards of any occupied home or building, or more than 100 yards of a property line. Further, the ordinance places restrictions on the time of day shooters can take target practice; no discharge of firearms will be permitted in the township between "sunset" and 8 a.m.
Any person in violation of the ordinance will be brought before a Magisterial District Justice under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, be found guilty of a summary offense, and receive a fine no less than $300 and no more than $1,000.
The seedlings of this ordinance were first planted at the township in June, when several township residents began to galvanize in response to hearing gun shots fired from properties throughout the township - full-throttle, high-powered rifle blasts fired for target shooting. At a Board of Supervisors meeting on June 26, more than two dozen residents packed the township building to call for a regulation on the use of firearms within township borders. In subsequent supervisors meetings, a draft of the ordinance, culled from similar ordinances passed in other townships in the state, was discussed before residents, as well as reviewed by the township's planning commission, legal counsel, supervisors and residents, who offered written comments reviewed by township officials.
"They (Kennett Township residents) were very responsible (in helping to pass the ordinance), in that they came to various meetings with their concerns," Stevens said. "They were included in communications between (Township Manager) Lisa Moore and myself, at which time they shared their thoughts and concerns. They kept pressure on this so that it would not be swept under the table. They were active in the participatory democracy that made this happen."
Although the ordinance passed, several loose ends still remain in it. Stevens called the ordinance a work in progress, one that is likely to be tinkered with by the township's planning commission and then kicked back to the supervisors for future amendment.
"Michael Elling did send it to the planning commission to have them make suggestions, and the citizens were not happy with the final document, and nor was I," Stevens said. "Very few of the concerns I expressed about the ordinance were in place at the time the ordinance was passed. We have a generic kind of ordinance, with many concerns that still need to be addressed."