Readers Speak Out On Hunting Buffer Zones

SPEAKOUT

December 17, 2008

The Baltimore Sun's reporting on the day care center struck by hunter gunfire is very troubling - but the problem is certainly not unexpected ("Hunting-zone review likely," Dec. 12).

Maryland law permits hunters to shoot at deer toward occupied buildings if they and the deer are on their own property or have written permission from the property owner to do so or are at least 150 yards from the building.

The problem is that shotguns loaded with the so-called pumpkin ball ammunition used for deer hunting have an effective range well in excess of the 150-yard safety zone.

An additional concern is that the accidental discharge of weapons does occur, and the maximum range of a weapon accidentally discharged is more than 1,200 yards.

Attempts to change the law to increase the so-called "safety zone" (which is really a danger zone), from the present 150 yards to 300 yards - and to set the distance from the hunter to the property line, not the building - have failed as a result of strong opposition from the Department of Natural Resources and from hunters.

The near-tragedy at the day care center that could easily have critically wounded or killed a child should be a wake-up call to change the law and be sure that we provide a meaningful safety zone before it is too late.

Marvin Tenberg, Cockeysville

The writer is the president of Animal Action Inc.

Reading "Hunting-zone review likely," I was appalled by the statement by Paul Peditto, the acting assistant director of the Department of Natural Resources, that the shooting incident at the day care facility was "a hyper-rare situation in Maryland history" and he was only "aware of just three incidents in the last two decades."

Where in the world has he been living?

On the first day of deer hunting season in November, my daughter and I awoke to the sounds of gunshots in our Carroll County home.

She no sooner lay back down in her bed than a very large shot went though her bedroom window, crossed over her head, went through a poster on the wall and lodged in the wall. She was covered in glass but, fortunately, was physically unhurt.

When the State Police arrived at about 7:15 a.m., the troopers said that ours was the second house so far that morning that had been hit. But the troopers were unable to identify who had fired the shot.

It is time for all hunters to accept responsibility for their legal right to bear arms and accept that this does not give them the right to invade or damage our property - by foot or by bullet.

Will it take someone being killed in the "safety" of his or her home before anything is done?

Vicki Mayo, Westminster

The two rogue hunters who mistakenly shot out a day care center window were grossly negligent. Assuming that they have completed the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' hunter safety course, they should have known better.

One of the cardinal rules of shooting is always to know where your bullet will stop and never to take a shot that won't be grounded. And responsible hunters, who are vital in maintaining a healthy deer population, always know what is behind their target before they pull the trigger.

There is no excuse for what happened that day, especially considering the modern advantages of Google Earth and MapQuest, both of which offer a bird's eye view of any property and what surrounds it.

Hunting on any property without this kind of knowledge is stupid and reckless.

But state officials should hold these hunters accountable for reckless endangerment rather than punishing responsible hunters by changing the existing laws.

Keith Gibbons, Baltimore

Animal Advocates has opposed Howard County's managed deer hunts from their very beginning. One of our major concerns has always been public safety. And we are pleased to hear that, as a result of the incident at the Clarksville day care center, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is concerned about this issue and is making it a priority to change the regulations to increase the current hunting safety zone, which is woefully inadequate.

The guns and bows used today are far more powerful than the ones used when the safety zones were established many years ago. Our county has also experienced overwhelming development that requires these zones to be modified dramatically.

To protect public safety, the hunting buffer zone must be no less than 1,500 yards.

Almost every day we hear of someone who has been killed, injured or had his or her property damaged by a hunter's stray bullet or arrow.

It is imperative that our politicians step up to the plate and act now.

Let's make 2009 a safer year for everyone.

Ann Selnick, Ellicott City

The writer is president of Animal Advocates of Howard County.

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