Bow, arrow bill may miss mark

November 24, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

An ordinance designed to control the shooting of bows and arrows within Hampstead's town limits may not fly.

Critics of the proposed ordinance say it would not tighten the restriction on bow and arrow use. Instead, they say, it would loosen regulation of the use of guns and other weapons within the town.

The proposed change to the town code will be the subject of a public hearing at a special meeting of the Town Council at 7 p.m. Monday in the Hampstead town hall.

The proposed ordinance says a person may not discharge any firearm, bow and arrow, crossbow or explosive mechanism designed to shoot a projectile, within town limits. It was written after residents complained to the council in June that an archer on Sugar Maple Street was practicing his skills from his back porch, creating a safety problem.

Several exceptions to the prohibition are specified in the proposal:

* Shooting would be allowed in approved target, trap or skeet ranges.

* Police acting in the line of duty would be exempted from the law.

* The use of weapons would be allowed where necessary to protect life or property or to kill a dangerous animal.

* Blank cartridges could be used in theatrical performances or sporting events.

One controversial part of the proposed ordinance would allow discharges of weapons "in a private basement or cellar target range, private property or residence" so long as such activities do not endanger other people or property.

Such discharges also must be "under supervision of an adult."

Councilman Wayne Thomas said the ordinance, as written, would allow a Hampstead resident to fire guns in a private basement if he or she thought there was an adequate backstop.

"If you miss the target, you run the risk of killing somebody," he said.

Councilman Dwight Womer, who presented the ordinance to the council, said the problematic passage could be fixed by specifying the weapons as "any bow and arrows."

Mr. Womer said he did not design the ordinance to restrain archers, but to tell them, "If you're going to do it, here's what you need to do."

He said he had sampled bow-and-arrow ordinances from around the state and found some of them very restrictive.

In the proposed Hampstead ordinance, he said, he tried to find "a happy medium."

Mr. Womer said some questions -- such as whose responsibility it would be to decide whether a backstop is sufficient -- probably will be addressed at the public hearing.

Town police will enforce the ordinance if it passes, he said, but they will need guidelines to apply to specific cases.

Mr. Thomas said that even if the controversial section is changed, most Hampstead yards are too small to allow the safe discharge of bows and arrows. Many back yards of local townhouses are only 30 feet deep, he said.

"I can throw an arrow 30 feet," he said. "I don't need to shoot it. We've just got too many people living too close together."

Mr. Thomas said the council should study the possibility of creating an archery range on park land.

"We haven't explored all the avenues," he said.

Hampstead Mayor Clint Becker said, "I think there's more work ** that needs to be done on the bow-and-arrow ordinance."

He said the matter ultimately will be decided by the Town Council, but he thinks there are few places where a bow and arrow can be safely fired within the town's limits.

"I support bow hunting; I think it's a great sport," he said. "But I think there's a place for it."

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