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South Portland bans use of pellet guns, slingshots in public

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South Portland bans use of pellet guns, slingshots in public

SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to ban the use and open display of pellet guns, slingshots and bows and arrows in public places.

The ban does not include the use of the non-lethal weapons on private property.

The ordinance makes it a civil offense to use the weapons in public areas, including parks, and requires owners to transport the weapons in closed containers.

"This is the lightest possible restriction we can enact and still do what was asked," Mayor Tom Coward said.

The ban was proposed while the council was updating its weapons ordinance to comply with state law.

Police Chief Edward Googins originally asked the council for a complete prohibition on pellet guns and slingshots, including their use on private property. But Googins said the latest proposal is "sufficient."

"It's intended to keep our community safe and target those who are acting unreasonably," he said.

Councilor Tom Blake, who opposed the ordinance, said the city is over-regulating it residents, who can legally carry loaded firearms in public.

To highlight the need for the ordinance, Googins said he received a call two weeks ago, while he was at a council meeting promoting the new ordinance, about young men in masks and camouflage with guns.

"It was, I believe, some war games going on with air soft guns," he said.

Still, Blake did not believe the volume of calls justified the ordinance."We're creating a regulation for a problem that doesn't exist," he said.

Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis, however, said the "potential for danger" is enough for her to support the ordinance. "It will only take one tragedy for us to wonder about this," she said.

A handful of residents, meanwhile, opposed the ordinance.

John Kierstead took Councilor Linda Boudreau to task for previous comments about fearing that police would accidentally shoot a child with a pellet gun, calling it "disingenuous."

Kierstead also criticized Boudreau's reading of safety instructions for air soft guns pulled from a manufacturer's website, which echoed the city's proposed ordinance.

"I hate to tell you, but those (instructions) are for morons," he said. "It's never a good idea to put a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger to see if it's loaded."

Although he believed the ordinance would pass, James Roy said the discussion has prompted him and his neighbors to take more interest in city politics.

"If anything, this ordinance has woken up a lot of people that maybe we should pay attention to what's going on at City Hall," Roy said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net