Town Councilor Jim Butler walked up to a table in front of his fellow councilors and opened a box, dumping the contents on the table. Spilling out of the box were beer cans with bullet holes in them, spent cartridge shells and a lot of litter and shot up items.
“I would like to address the target shooting that goes on in the Musquash (conservation) area,” he told the Council on Monday night. “I would also like to say that I believe in the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, and I have an active gun license and I own a gun.”
Butler said that as a Councilor for the past three years he has monitored complaints and had toured the Musquash area with Conservation Commission member Mike Considine on multiple occasions.
“In my opinion, by the evidence provided to you by what I just dropped out of the box, the target shooting is not being done by responsible gun owners,” he said. “Responsible gun owners are not careless. they do not leave behind empty shell casings, empty ammunition boxes, clay targets and beer cans among other debris.”
Butler suggested that target shooting in the Musquash be banned and posted. He acknowledged that hunting should be allowed to continue in the Musquash, as he claimed the town is prohibited by statute in restricting hunting.
“We all know that alcohol and guns don’t mix,” Butler said.
He said persons were shooting across trails and at targets that were in areas where residences are nearby. Councilor Tom Freda later said it was out of the town’s hands because of statute.
However, contacted after the meeting, Geoff Pushee, Conservation Officer with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, said in response to a question about a statute preventing the town from regulating hunting, “the town of Londonderry, as with any other landowner, can restrict hunting on lands that it owns and the Musquash, unless there is a document stating in the deed that hunting will not be restricted, can be posted by the town as it is the landowner. We have a say on seasons and things like that.”
”The Musquash is a place where all people, both young and old, should be able to enjoy without a threat to their personal safety. This is a public safety issue,” Butler said.
Town Manager Kevin Smith said he polled town managers to see if there were other towns with a similar situation that had posted no target shooting, and he said both Merrimack and Bow post no target shooting in their conservation areas.
Councilor John Farrell asked Police Chief William Hart if, based on what he had heard, he could arrest anyone caught in the Musquash.
“At this point we could arrest for littering, and nuisance is hard to define,” Hart said.
“Let me rephrase the question – Public safety, endangering the public safety of others,” Farrell said.
Hart said that would be difficult to prove because there has to be an immediate danger to a specific person to be able to charge someone with reckless conduct.
“So somebody just shooting it up, you can’t do anything?” Farrell asked.
“If the police officer is there or if someone makes the complaint and it is investigated, the potential is there for a charge of reckless conduct. Presumably it would be brought as a felony, as a deadly weapon is involved,” Hart said.
Hart added that the police could not patrol the Musquash.
Councilor Tom Freda said if target shooting were banned, why not hunting, stating that in hunting, the target is moving and so is the shooter. He said 1,000 people are shot during hunting incidents every year. “And just under 100 of these shootings are fatalities,” Freda said.
Butler said residents know when it is hunting season and can make an informed decision about whether to visit the Musquash, whereas there is no way to know when target shooters are on the conservation parcel.
Chairman Tom Dolan decided to put the issue on a future agenda for public input.
In other business:
• The Town Council voted to expend $7,767.96 for the purchase of three Panasonic “Tough Pad” laptops with detachable folding keypad out of the fund for purchasing fire department equipment. Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said the department’s current equipment was no longer able to be upgraded.