Valley leaders discuss gun safety ordinance

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 18, 2019

VALLEY — Firing a gun within the city limits of Valley could soon be a thing of the past.

A committee tasked to look at a proposed gun ordinance that would basically limit discharging a firearm within the city met Tuesday to discuss details.

The current iteration of the ordinance states that no person shall discharge a firearm or gun which uses a powder within 500 yards of a residence, church or business within the corporate limits of the city of Valley.

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The proposed exceptions to the ordinance are that it would not apply to the discharge of a gun, pistol or other firearms by a law enforcement officer in the execution of their duties or to historical re-enactments or theatrical products involving the use of blank cartridges.

Additionally, the ordinance would not apply to self-defense purposes or military exercises.

The proposed penalties would be a fine, possibly of up to $500 and a potential of six months in jail.

Valley Councilman Randall Maddux, who was also dubbed as the chairman of the gun ordinance committee, said safety was at the forefront of the discussion.

“We know as elected officials our No. 1 priority is to try and protect the citizens of Valley, and do it in a responsible way,” he said. “Sometimes, we have to make difficult decisions, and sometimes, we are not going to please everyone.”

Maddux said it is very early in the conversation, and the committee plans to meet again, but nobody is talking about removing guns from people’s possession.

“We are not taking guns away from anyone or anything like that,” he said.

The proposed ordinance comes as a response to a recent situation happening in the Shawmut community.

At a July council meeting, two residents were engaged in a situation where one resident was concerned about his neighbor shooting a firearm in his backyard into a stump when children were outside.

The other resident was concerned that a stray bullet could miss the stump and hit a house, or worse, another person.

At the July meeting, Mayor Leonard Riley said he’s not a gun person, but he does respect gun owner’s rights. However, he’s not comfortable with people shooting guns in residential areas.

On Tuesday, the mayor said he doesn’t want to see a complete ban on shooting within the city, but it’s clear something needs to be done to eliminate firing weapons in neighborhoods.

“We need safety here and we need to protect our children playing in the yard,” Riley said. “Everybody around us has an ordinance that does not allow any shooting in the city limits other than those exceptions for police and self-defense.”

Maddux said the city is looking at this situation from a safety standpoint and would prefer as little restrictions as possible.

“But I really don’t see how we can have a gun ordinance without basically covering the entire city,” he said. “I mean you are either going to have one or you’re not.”

Ricky Jennings of Valley said if the city makes it to where gun owners can’t fire the gun, then the firearm become worthless to the owner.

“I look at this as a backdoor way into gun control,” he said.

Several of the committee members said they are not interested in more gun control laws.

Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon said he does see the need for an ordinance but it would need to be simple and easily enforced. The way it is set up at the moment, he said it would be treated like any other citation and a violator would not be arrested.

“I just would like it to be clear and simple and easy to enforce,” he said. “Also, something that allows people with adequate property to safely shoot firearms. The key is determining what that is.”

Weldon said the violation would be attributed to the actual person firing the weapon and not the property owner. In most cases, an officer would need to see the action take place, but a resident can file a complaint which would cause them to follow up in court.

After the meeting, Riley instructed the city attorney to bring back a written ordinance with exceptions for the committee to review at 5 p.m. before Monday’s city council meeting.