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Spotsy takes aim at shooting ordinance page 2
Spotsy supervisors consider allowing residents to shoot guns in subdivisions with lots of more than 5 acres

Date published: 1/21/2013

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Stroman has said the shooting issue surfaced when his office learned that the current ordinance may be vulnerable in court because it doesn't define a subdivision. The proposed ordinance says a subdivision is any housing development that has a plat on file with the Circuit Court.

Still, Commonwealth's Attorney William Neely told supervisors that he has prosecuted people under the existing law.

"We've prosecuted it a number of times and, to be fair, a judge has never ruled that it's not enforceable. It's just Mr. Stroman and I identified a potential problem with it, so we brought it to the board's attention," he said.

Supervisor Benjamin Pitts said one solution would be to define "subdivision" and make no other changes to the ordinance. He said he has serious concerns with the proposal, and the majority of constituents he's heard from oppose it.

"Many of them have told me [and I agree] that one of government's basic responsibilities is to provide for the safety of its citizens," Pitts said in an email. "They feel that this proposal is doing just the opposite."

Eight of the 13 residents who spoke at a recent public hearing on the issue were against the proposed code changes as written.

Supervisor Paul Trampe said he hasn't made up his mind on the proposal. But he said it would still be illegal to fire guns in every subdivision in his Salem District, even if supervisors allow shooting on lots of more than 5 acres.

"I don't think that's a bad provision, but I'm still open to just doing the minimum," Trampe said. At a minimum, he said, the county needs to define the terms "subdivision" and "gun" in the ordinance.

ONGOING DISCUSSION

Board members have been discussing the issue for about a year. They originally voted to consider an ordinance that would allow residents of subdivisions to shoot on their property if they lived on lots of more than 1 acre.

A lot of residents had safety concerns with that proposal, so supervisors increased the proposed minimum lot size.

Spotsylvania Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Pearce said police routinely receive calls about guns being fired in neighborhoods, but he didn't know how many such complaints they had received in the past year. The Sheriff's Office takes the incidents seriously, but he said he doesn't think the county has a "huge problem" with people shooting in subdivisions.

Supervisor Ann Heidig said her only concern is for the county to have an enforceable ordinance. She said she's not sure if she supports the 5-acre proposal.

"To me, picking an acre size is sort of difficult to do because as we know, it's really not the size of your lot, it's how carefully you manage your weapon," Heidig said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com


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