Licking County News

Pataskala City Council

Officials want no gray areas in gunfire laws

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Pataskala City Council on Aug. 19 reviewed restrictions to the city's legal firearms discharge zone, but some city officials suggested the language of the accompanying ordinance was vague and required revision.

The firearms discharge zone permits hunting and recreational shooting in areas of Pataskala that are zoned agricultural and rural residential -- about two-thirds of the city.

The agriculture committee has proposed restricting gunfire -- other than hunting -- to daylight hours and limiting shooting to two consecutive hours.

Council heard second reading Aug. 19 of an ordinance that included the restrictions.

Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher asked Law Director Rufus Hurst to clarify how the restrictions would be enforced.

Hurst said the ordinance as proposed Aug. 19 was not clear on the two-hour shooting limit.

He said the "break" between continuous shooting is not defined and "could be as long as up to two hours or about three minutes."

City Councilman Bernard Brush, the agriculture committee chairman who drafted the restrictions in the ordinance, said there is a provision that prohibits shooting from being "unreasonable" or "annoying" to neighboring property owners.

Brush said it would be up to a magistrate to define unreasonable and annoying.

City Council President Dan Hayes asked if the property owner or the shooter would be charged if the ordinance is violated.

Hurst said the ordinance is not clear who would be charged if multiple shooters were involved off and on during a two-hour period.

Hurst also said criminal conduct must occur in the presence of an officer and, for example, it could be difficult for an officer to witness two hours and five minutes of shooting by one person.

Police Capt. Michael Boals, who did not attend the meeting, said unless a resident had video or some other proof of continuous shooting, the ordinance could be difficult to enforce.

Police Chief Bruce Brooks, who also did not attend the meeting, said he does not have officers who can spend that amount of time on a single call.

Brooks said the ordinance needs to be clear to be enforceable.

"We want it to be black and white to where a fifth-grader would know what it means," Brooks said.

Hurst said he would review language in the ordinance and present revisions at the next City Council meeting, slated Sept. 2.

Councilman Mike Fox said the restrictions would reduce legal firearms discharge by 50 percent from what currently is allowed.

"It's a massive reduction, primarily because of one or two individuals," Fox said.

Jadeen Hergenrother of Sims Road has spoken to City Council about shooting behind her backyard several times; she met Aug. 19 with City Council and the agriculture committee.

Hergenrother said people are allowed to fire guns too close to her home and she wants something done about it.

She was joined in her quest for further restrictions by Grace Cherrington of Courter Road.

Cherrington asked if City Council could limit the type of weapons used and said rapid shooting should be done at gun ranges.

Evangeline Fouras of Summit Road took the argument one step further and asked how she could have her property removed from the firearms discharge zone.

Hurst said property owners can petition the city to amend the discharge zone map. The agriculture committee and planning commission review requests and make recommendations to City Council on amendments .

Hurst said filing a request for an amendment does not mean city officials will grant it. He said the city would not create "islands" within the discharge zone.

City Councilman Mike Compton, who serves on the agriculture committee, said the restrictions are a first step in solving the problem.

In other business Aug. 19, City Council voted 5-2 to spend $15,000 to repair a shelter house roof, gutters and spouting, potholes in the parking lot and to repair playground equipment and fences in the Thomas J. Evans Foundation Park.

Brush and Fox voted against the legislation.

Fox said he wanted more information and tried to table the ordinance, which failed in a 4-3 vote with Hayes, Bryan Lenzo, Merissa McKinstry and Pat Sagar voting against it and Brush, Compton and Fox in favor.

The legislation passed on first reading -- with the second and third readings waived -- in a 5-2 vote, with Brush and Fox voting against it.

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