Harpswell Town Meeting to vote on updated firearms law

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HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectmen sent a sweeping overhaul 0f the town’s firearms ordinance – which hasn’t been updated in 20 years – to Town Meeting.

In other business, selectman on Feb. 7 voted unanimously not to take up a winter parking ban, since state law allows the sheriff’s office to remove cars if they are blocking roadways or entryways.

Board members discussed replacing the current one-page firearms ordinance with two comprehensive ordinances that govern the use of firearms in town and focuses on the registration of shooting ranges. 

Included would be a limit on the hours a firearm can be discharged and a clear definition of what constitutes a shooting range. 

According to Town Planner Mark Eyerman, Harpswell is trying to be more in line with state and federal regulations, including the use of firearms and the definition.

“In considering these, it is important to recognize that there are differences between the hunting regulations and the Maine Criminal Code,” Eyerman said via email.

The current ordinance only includes the term “firearm” and would be expanded to include the definition according to state statute: “any weapon whether loaded or unloaded … commonly referred to as a pistol, revolver, rifle, gun, machine gun, or shotgun. Any weapon that can be made into a firearm by the insertion of a firing pin, or other similar thing, or by repair, is a firearm.”

The current and proposed ordinances both only allow for the discharge of shotguns, rimfire arms and black powder guns, and ban automatic weapons. 

The proposed local law would also include a definition of “shooting range,” and require them to be registered with the town. The shooting range ordinance would allow for indoor and outdoor ranges. However, outdoor facilities would be limited to the three types of firearms laid out in the firearms ordinance, while indoor shooting ranges would be open to any type of firearm they are designed for.

The ordinance now in place does not limit the time a firearm can be discharged. In the proposed law, discharging a firearm between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. would be prohibited. However, there is still discussion regarding the time someone can discharge a firearm.

Resident Chuck Perow, who participated in a firearms workshop with Eyerman and Town Administrator Kristi Eiane, said he would support an ordinance that is more comprehensive and allows for target shooting during daylight hours in the summer.

“We may want to adopt something along the lines of Brunswick’s wording that limits the time of day target practice is allowed; something like 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. or sunset, whichever comes first,” said Perow, who is also the town’s recycling center and transfer station manager.

“This type of language would not allow practice in the summer to go past 8 p.m. And would limit the remainder of the year to daylight hours, sometimes the 6 p.m. limitation doesn’t do.”

Under the current and proposed ordinance, permission is required before a firearm is discharged within 300 feet of a dwelling, and target practice is allowed with an owner’s permission. However, in the draft, the definition of dwelling is expanded to any public building or facility, any commercial or industrial building, or any school, playground, church, or other community building.

Cundy’s Harbor resident Jonathan Burbank said written permission should be able to be given in certain circumstances.

“Occupants of certain dwelling types should be able to give written permission for someone to shoot on their land if they so choose,” Burbank said. “That would be more in line with state laws.”

Burbank, the only resident who commented, also suggested that the use of the term “black powder guns” is outdated and that the term “muzzleloading guns” should be used.

According to Eiane, the draft warrant for the March 9 Town Meeting will likely be finalized by the end of February.   

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