Gun owners fighting proposed changes to Essex firearms discharge ordinance

town of Essex

Proposed changes to the Essex Firearms Discharge Ordinance would expand areas where firing is prohibited, including Indian Brook Park (in yellow), Saxon Hill Forest and Deer Crossing Development (in green), and the privately owned north-central areas to the Westford town line (in blue).

ESSEX, Vt. — A proposed firing restriction in the area has gun owners up in arms over the possibility of a large chunk of land being stripped away from their hunting grounds.

If implemented, hunters would be prohibited from discharging their firearms in Indian Brook Park, Saxon Hill Forest and a large privately owned area to the north, even if they own the land.

According to opponents of the ordinance, the firing restriction could be a detriment to maintaining the herd population and cause a rise in ticks and tick-borne diseases, among others.

“Hunting is a very important part of herd management, and when you reduce the amount of hunters, then you reduce the state’s ability to manage the herd,” said Mike Cady, a land-owner and Essex resident. “When deer get overpopulated, you’re now talking about unintentional consequences of destroying people’s gardens, crops, disease and starving amongst the animals.”

The Essex Selectboard worked on two different options for how to implement the ordinance, based on suggestions made by former Police Chief Brad LaRose.

In Sept. 2016, LaRose came up with three aspects on implementing the firing ordinance.

The first recommendation was to ban firing in certain areas entirely. The second was to prohibit the discharge of rifles, but allow discharge of shotgun shells containing shot, as well as  discharge of pistols. The third and final option would be to prohibit the discharge of rifles and pistols while allowing the discharge of shotgun shells containing shot.

“I think as a general group, the current options as they are written are unnarrated, and we don’t want any of those changes to happen. However, I think there’s certainly room for discussion on the topic and perhaps there’s some smart additions we can make to the ordinance to increase safety,” Cady said.

Based on these recommendations, the Selectboard came up with two options to go about these changes.

Option A, the fastest and most practical approach to coming up with a new firing ordinance, would require the Selectboard to hear the concerns of both sides of the public to come up with a decision before the beginning of the 2018 hunting season.

Option B, the slower approach, would allow residents of the town to be a part of a Community Advisory Team to host conversations, summarize findings and make the proper recommendations to the Selectboard for any ordinance changes necessary. This would not go into effect until after the 2018 hunting season.

The Selectboard made the decision on April 19, 2018, to go with Option A in determining what is best for the town.

“I think it’s important for both sides of the stance. It’s important to increase the communication,” Cady said. “I think the downfall — something we can solve this summer — is sort of a lack of communication of both sides and a lack of education on both sides as well.”

This ordinance stems from two isolated incidents that occured in Essex in the past.

On Sept. 23, 2008, John Reiss, a retired St. Michael’s College professor, was killed instantly by a stray bullet that entered his home while he was sitting at his dining room table. In 2015, a bullet was found lodged in the wall of a different residential home.

“I think that’s kind of the catalyst for some discussion,” Cady said. “I think those are the two incidences that are kind of the driving factor behind it.”

Essex resident Kevin Murdough thinks the turnout at Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting will be a mixture of people who support or disagree with the ordinance, but the majority will probably be residents who own the land that is proposed for the firing restriction.

“Even if it’s on my land, I believe I’m still prohibited from shooting,” Murdough said. “I have almost 21 acres here, and as far as I’m concerned I should be able to fire a weapon on it.”

He added that if the ordinance is implemented, it’s only an ordinance and the consequences for being caught may only result in a small fine.

“It might deter a few people, but it’s just an ordinance. … It’s not a game violation, they wouldn’t take your deer, but it’s still a violation and you’d be subject to pay some sort of fine because of it,” he said.

Essex resident Keith Cutler said another driving factor behind this is the fact that people are just “dead set” against guns even if they’ve never owned a gun and are not educated on the subject.

“There’s a small group of people that are pushing for it, but most of us are directly affected and it’s literally 20 of us, and then the person that’s been pushing this thing from the start,” Cutler said. “It’s really amazing that one person can get something that far.”

Cutler said other cities in the country that have passed no-shooting ordinances have run into more problems, including animal population control.

“What are you gonna say to the mother who’s lost a daughter or son when they plow into a deer because they’re all over the place? Not only that, it’s the tradition of hunting in itself,” he said.

Sean McCuin is also an Essex resident and he fears that hunters who are passing through the area will be unaware of the ordinance due to a lack of signage.

“Somebody from another town comes through during deer season and they see a buck out there, but not signage that tells them they’re in a restricted area,” he said.

This was one of the ideas that he said was contributed when the town was discussing options for the ordinance.

Another idea of a possible shooting range available to police, community members and anyone else, was essentially swept under the rug and disregarded when brought up at the meeting.

“[Larose] said it was kind of like a band-aid, and I don’t really see some of the things we came up with as a band-aid. Signage is important — how would people who don’t live in the area know about any of that?” McCuin said. “Nobody even talked about the shooting range. I surmised that probably the town doesn’t want to touch something that could create a liability for them with a ten-foot pole.”

The town of Essex is offering multiple public forums on proposed changes to the firearms discharge ordinance. The first will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 5 at Founders Memorial School.

Additional information can be found on the town’s website.

Briana Bocelli is a freelance reporter for True North Reports.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Kelapstick and town of Essex

5 thoughts on “Gun owners fighting proposed changes to Essex firearms discharge ordinance

  1. Vermonter’s with any real roots here need to rally and get out and vote these controlling Democrats out of office.

  2. I own 12 acres on the Westford/Essex town line of which we hunt on. It is the whole top of the hill with no houses or structures on the same plain. Everything is below me and you’re going to restrict me from discharging a firearm. How crazy are these people? All the land up there including my neighbors is wooded with no open areas. We have been hunting up there for generations with no problems and now we won’t be able to because some nut wants to restrict us. Where are they from??
    It’s ridiculous what is happening in this once great State..

  3. Agenda, Agenda, Agenda. That’s all the Liberals Have, feel-good policy.

    You have a couple of tragic events, yes tragic. So the Liberals jump on the Anti Gun band
    wagon ( again). They Know they’ll have a hard time disbanding the Second Amendment
    so let’s halt where you can use a firearm ( squeeze) the law-abiding Citizen (again).

    They never address the real problem ( Criminals & Crazies ) they may get there wish if
    the recommendation passes, more foolish feel-good policy and that’s all it is and I hope,
    the people of Essex realize this.

    Hey Liberal (AGO ) Anti Gun Owners, remember you’re not punishing the lawbreakers
    they are never going to follow your agenda or the law !! Break out of your bubble and
    face the real dangers. Not Law abiding Gun owners.

    Landowners stand up to this foolishness, Vermont already has laws on the books
    § 4710. Safety zone; shooting prohibited !! increase the fines for those that don’t
    follow the laws.

  4. Once again all gun owners are punished for the egregious and senseless acts of two individuals in the past. Where is the outrage over the careless discharge by a “trained” Essex police officer within the police station a few years back? That was swept under the rug. I assume they will also abide by any new ordnance.
    The Essex select board should be well advised that Vermont has a preemption law that prohibits the enactment of any “firearm” ordnance or law without requesting a legislative charter change. The last request was from Burlington in 2016, and that request is still “stuck” on the wall in legislative chambers in Montpelier. The preemption law is in place to prevent the enactment of a patchwork of gun laws that ensnare uninformed law abiding citizens who have no way of knowing every discreet ordnance as they traverse the state.
    To tell someone, who has sufficient acreage to safely discharged his/her weapons, that they summarily will not be allowed to do so is just plain wrong. This again is the handful of people that hate any gun and are hell bent to force everyone to fall in line under their misguided beliefs. Unfortunately these liberal, holier than thou hypocrites, have moved here and want to change every aspect of Vermont.
    In my town, in a similar meeting, the comment from one of these individuals who claimed he had just moved here from NY said this is the 21st century and Vermonter’s need to get over their love affair with guns. My question is, why did he move here in the first place. In this case, he had no personal adverse experience since moving here with firearms, but wanted change.
    Be careful here as well, that depending on how any ordnance is written, it could even prohibit a homeowner from discharging a firearm in self defense within his/her own home. That is in direct violation of Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution.
    This isn’t just a “select board” decision as this involves significant constitutional and general legal issues that requires extensive law review.

  5. All you lawful, tax paying gun owners are advised not to discharge firearms in this designated area but all of you criminal types just pay no attention to the liberal BS and discharge your border smuggled firearm at anything or anyone that you want because laws are what you break and that’s what makes you criminals.

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