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Complaints About Gunfire On Town Owned Land Brings Investigation of Ordinance
by Penny Williams    7-5-16

At the May 9, 2016 Raymond Board of Selectmen meeting, Raymond Police Chief David Salois noted complaints received by the Police and the Town Manager's Office regarding noise from the discharge of firearms.

Town Manager Craig Wheeler introduced the issue of whether the discharge of firearms and/or target practice were legal in Raymond. Wheeler had two maps, one showing Town-owned parcels and the second showing which parcels allowed hunting under the Town Ordinance allowing the discharge of firearms, and which parcels prohibited hunting and thus the discharge of firearms.

Wheeler said the Town owns roughly 85 to 90 parcels of 5 acres or more. The maps he showed the selectmen and the lists of the specific town-owned parcels that allow hunting and those that prohibit hunting can be viewed by the public at the Raymond Police Station or the Town Clerk's Office in Town Hall.

Chief Salois has been working with Wheeler and Community Development Director, Building and Health Inspector Ernest Creveling about this issue, which, as Salois noted, is basically about the noise from firearms. He said his department is getting an increasing number of complaints, and his officers respond to them. However, in his report, he told the board 90 percent of the complaints stem from incidents of legal hunting or discharge of a firearm.

Salois pointed out that Town Ordinance 230-1 states that the discharge of a firearm and hunting will be prohibited at the Town Transfer Station and any other Town-owned properties except on those properties where it is allowed as listed in Ordinance 230-2.

Salois said one area where complaints are generated is between Route 27 and Ham Road, and which can be accessed off Heritage Way or Colonial Drive. He said this is a swamp area where evidence has been found indicating firearms have been fired.

He said officers did not find any evidence of shooting along the power lines but did find such evidence in the area of Cilley Road that runs alongside of the Lillian Cassier Memorial Forest conservation land, the Dearborn Town Forest and areas next to the Recreation Trail. Evidence was found of firearms being discharged behind the Highway Shed on the Flint Hill development land that abutts the Flint Hill conservation land.

When his officers check out a complaint, they have a couple of statutes to deal with, he said. One deals with shooting, and states that shooting is not allowed within a town compact downtown areas or within 300 feet of a building or dwelling.

He said people can legally discharge firearms on their own property, so long as that property is not with the town compact and not within 300 feet of a building or dwelling.

The other statute deals with disorderly conduct and this, Salois noted, is difficult to prove, but his officers try to make persons discharging a firearm aware of the noise issue and ask that they be respectful of others. Disorderly conduct might be involved in shooting at an inappropriate time but he added the statute language is so broad and vague that it is difficult to prove.

Nevertheless, Salois told the selectmen, his officers respond to complaints, check on where the discharge of firearms occurred to ascertain whether it was beyond the required 300 feet from a building or dwelling, and check that the target, if the matters appears to be target shooting, is safe and appropriate.

He said he will continue to send officers to respond to complaints and during the spring, summer and fall, he will have an officer out on a four-wheeler in the areas where complaints are most typically generated. He added that he planned to work with Public Works Director Stephen Brewer to see about blocking off more trail approaches to stop or at least limit four-wheelers.

The increase in noise complaints from the discharge of firearms is tied to the number of gun permits issued by the Raymond Police Department, he added. Salois said he is handling an increased numbers of permit requests, meaning there are more guns in the community, and if there are more guns, there will be more guns being fired and likely more noise complaints about gunshots.

The board raised questions about the linking of the discharge of a firearm and permitted hunting. They also questioned whether hunting and the discharge of a firearm should be tied to dawn to dusk.

Salois said the town Noise Ordinance is silent on gunfire noise and does not specify dawn to dusk.

The selectmen asked about considering an ordinance on this issue or adding something to the noise ordinance. Another idea offered was to change the Town Ordinance regarding hunting on Town property, disassociating hunting from the discharge of a firearm and thus eliminating target practice.

A suggestion was also made to limit when hunting could take place. Conservation Commission member Bernie Peer said he thought it would be a bad idea for the Town to limit when hunting could take place, as some hunting is allowed after dark.

The selectmen said something could be done is to educate those who come in for a gun permit, and Salois agreed, saying the Police could also provide those persons with information about where hunting on Town Property is allowed and where it is not allowed.

Conservation Commission member Jan Kent said she thought only state law could regulate firearms rules and said she thought the state law said that if hunting is allowed on a property, the discharge of a weapon is allowed. Salois said he thought Towns could regulate but that should be checked with legal counsel.

Wheeler responded that the Town has had the hunting regulation on the books and he thought the ordinances under discussion could be amended after due process, but the selectmen and Salois agreed the Town needs to get legal advice on these points.

Salois asked if the board wanted him to come up with language that made a distinction between hunting and the discharge of a firearm so that target practice could be restricted on Town-owned parcels where hunting is allowed. He suggested adding language that could clarify the ordinance and close any loopholes so that the Town doesn't end up with an area on Town-owned property that is used for repetitive shooting.

While the board didn't specifically request him to do so, it was accepted that the Police Chief would come up with some language for the board to review. Board member Colleen West-Coates said she would like to see the noise ordinance reviewed as well.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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895-4735

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