The Kodiak City Council will soon hold a public hearing on proposed Ordinance No. 1359. If adopted, the ordinance will prohibit the discharge of firearms and other dangerous weapons in the city. This ordinance was brought forward due to hunting activities taking place in heavily used recreational areas within the city limits. One fairly recent example was the shooting of a deer with a firearm on Near Island in 20115. That incident raised questions as to whether or not hunting on Near Island was safe and legal. Research into those questions revealed that there are currently no restrictions on hunting big game within city limits.
Not to worry, this ordinance does not appear to be an infringement on our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. All in all, I feel the ordinance is sound. It prohibits the discharge of a firearm within the city limits in all but the following circumstances: by a peace officer in the performance of duty; by any person lawfully defending people or property or preventing a crime; or on a firing range established in accordance with applicable state and local law. Allowing the discharge of firearms in the city under these circumstances seems completely reasonable to me. The one flay I did find in the ordinance has to do with prohibiting the discharge of “other dangerous weapons” on private property within city limits.
The ordinance defines “other dangerous weapons” as any instrument designed to propel an object with deadly force, including blow guns, BB guns, pellet guns, paintball guns, bows, compound bows, crossbows, or other similar instruments. There are no circumstances in which these “dangerous weapons” (as they are called in the ordinance) are allowed to be discharged within the city limits. Although I agree that it is inappropriate to discharge such “dangerous weapons” on public property within city limits, I do not agree with prohibiting city residents from using them for recreational target shooting in a safe and responsible manner on their own private property.
I, as well as many other city residents, enjoy safe and responsible recreational target shooting with my bow and air pistols in my back yard. I always do so with an appropriate backstop, and take all other necessary precautions to ensure I am not shooting in a manner that will endanger others or cause damage to property. I have never had an incident that has damaged property or caused harm to any person or pet. Should this ordinance be adopted as written, all city residents who safely and responsibly partake in such activities on their own private property will no longer be able to do so. I do not believe this to be the intent of this ordinance.
Not to be one who brings up a problem without a solution, I have provided a letter to the mayor and city council members. In that letter I requested that the council consider inserting the following language into the ordinance:
“This ordinance does not prohibit the discharge of other dangerous weapons for recreational target shooting on private property (with the property owner’s permission), provided such activity is conducted in a safe and responsible manner that will not endanger or cause harm to persons or property.”
Should the ordinance be amended to include this or similar language, adoption of the ordinance would allow city residents to continue to enjoy these activities on their own private property.
So, are you also a city resident who occasionally likes to go out in the back yard and safely and responsibly plink at targets with your airgun or lob a few arrows at an archery target? If so, I recommend that you let the mayor and city council know that you want to have the right to do so. Public comment on the ordinance can be provided by letter to mayor and council at 710 Mill Bay Road, Kodiak, AK 99615, by calling the public hearing at 907-486-3231, or by personally providing testimony during the public hearing. The public hearing on the ordinance will be held during the Oct. 13 regular city council meeting that begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Borough Building.
Jack Maker is currently an associate planner with the Kodiak Island Borough and a former borough code enforcement officer.