On May 26, 2021

Mendon to organize gunfire safety committee

By Brett Yates

The Mendon Select Board’s monthslong project to enact a firearm discharge ordinance entered a new stage on May 24 when the board agreed to solicit volunteers for a committee of residents that would help design the law.

The board’s first draft would have prohibited gunfire within 500 feet of any road, highway, hiking trail, or habitable structure inside town limits, with exemptions for hunters and others. But many gun owners objected, signaling a chance that a citizens’ petition would send the law to a townwide vote if enacted, and doubts about enforceability also slowed the board’s momentum.

“If there’s a speed limit and it’s 50 miles an hour, how do you know that? Well, you’ve got a speedometer right there. But 200 feet, 500 feet — I still question how a person knows,” Selectman Larry Courcelle observed at the board’s last meeting.

Now, Mendon aims to come up with an ordinance that would apply only in higher-density residential areas, hoping to make the proposal both more popular and more effective. But the Select Board wants help to do it.

If “five to eight” residents prove willing, a temporary committee will form in Mendon. Its first task will be to determine whether any kind of gunfire ordinance is necessary. If so, it will use a map of the town to identify all of its “cluster developments,” which would form the basis of a street-by-street ordinance.

“It’s a lot of work,” Courcelle noted.

Town Administrator Sara Tully suggested recruiting residents who spoke “in opposition of and support of the ordinance” at Mendon’s March 15 public hearing. One member of the Select Board may also join. If no one from the public wants to participate, the board plans to drop the ordinance altogether.

“If it’s a committee, it’s advisory only,” Chair Richard Wilcox pointed out. “It’ll come back to the Select Board for a yea or nay.”

Wilcox also read aloud a short written report on the subject of gunfire laws by Mendon Constable Phil Douglas, who said he’d researched all of Vermont’s 246 towns and cities. By his count, “only 26” of them currently have firearm discharge ordinances of some sort on the books.

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