Hampstead council votes 4-1 to ban shooting of weapons in town limits

November 30, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

The Hampstead Town Council enacted an ordinance last night that bans discharging weapons, including bows and arrows, within town limits.

The council voted 4-1 to adopt the measure, which has few exceptions. Councilman Arthur Moler opposed the ordinance.

Before the council voted, the panel amended -- and then deleted -- a controversial section that would have allowed target practice with any weapons, including guns, on private property "in such a manner as to not endanger persons or property."

Police acting in the line of duty are exempt from the ordinance.

In addition, shooting is allowed on approved shooting ranges; blanks may be fired during theatrical productions and sporting events; ceremonial salutes may be fired; and the ordinance allows the use of weapons to defend life or property, or to kill a dangerous animal.

During a public hearing on the measure, several local archers spoke against the regulation of archery practice within the town limits.

"I learned to shoot in my father's back yard," said Jerry Wenzel, who said he later taught his own children to shoot in his back yard. "It's something we should encourage rather than discourage."

He said the closest archery range is a 30-minute drive from Hampstead and that a shooting session there can cost $4.

"I practice at least twice a week in order to keep my skills up. It's hard to do that at a range," Mr. Wenzel said.

Charles Hagan, a former president of the Maryland Archery Association, said he has had an archery target set up in his back yard, just outside the town limits, since 1952.

"I can see this [ordinance] is going to be a crack in the door," he said.

Other speakers favored the ban on target practice in town.

"These lots are too small," said Steve Harmon, of Small Crossings. "All it takes is one mistake and any of us could make it."

"If someone wants to participate in the sport [of archery], there are places they can go," said Councilman Wayne Thomas.

"Our biggest concern is the life, health and safety of the residents," said Councilman Gary Bauer.

Mr. Thomas said town officials may create an approved archery range on open land near the waste-water treatment plant, where some archers have been practicing. Residents also may apply for approval of a private range from the town Planning and Zoning Commission, he said.

The issue of regulating weapons discharges in Hampstead was first raised at the June council meeting, when a resident complained that an archer on Sugar Maple Street was practice shooting from his back porch, creating a safety hazard.

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