The Town Council accepted the first reading of a new ordinance restricting target shooting in the Musquash.
The proposed ordinance is the product of much discussion and research completed by the Town’s Musquash Task Force, established in January of last year to study the issue of target shooting in the Musquash Conservation Area and other town-owned conservation land.
If approved, the ordinance would limit target shooting in the Musquash to shooters with a valid New Hampshire Fish and Game license, and who complete a check-in procedure with the Londonderry Police Department.
Additionally, the ordinance limits target shooting in the Musquash to turkey and deer hunting seasons, extends the protective shooting radius for discharging a firearm from 300 feet to 600 feet and establishes caliber restrictions equivalent to those allowed for hunting deer and turkey, with no center fire and an additional allowances for specified long rifles.
The Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance on Sept. 14, after which they will hold a vote to adopt the restrictions.
“I know the Council took special care not to infringe on anyone’s right to hunt for sport. I will be interested to hear if anyone during the public comment disagrees,” Councilor Tom Dolan said. “Individual members of the Council expressed those views, and we took this to the Town Attorney to make sure there isn’t something in the ordinance that conflicts with the Second Amendment or people’s desire to hunt.”
Police Chief Bill Hart, who served as chairman of the Task Force, said the consensus of residents who assembled to speak out on target shooting in the Musquash was that there is no desire in the community to interfere with Second Amendment rights or hunting.
“The task force as a group took a unanimous vote they didn’t wish to interfere with hunting rights,” he said.
Mike Considine, a member of the Task Force and “power user” of the Musquash, said he thinks the proposed ordinance goes a long way toward improving safety in the Musquash. However, he recommended amending language in the ordinance to limit turkey hunting season to the nine-week period when firearms are used.
“Turkey hunting season includes archery season. It’s much broader than the firearms season,” he said.
Dolan agreed the intent of the ordinance was to limit target shooting to hunting seasons during which firearms are used, and recommended Considine bring language to the public hearing that would remedy the issue.
Considine also suggested the Council consider adding language to the ordinance that would prohibit target shooting within 500 feet of trails in the Musquash.
But Councilors expressed concern the restriction would prove too difficult to enforce, and too difficult for target shooters to follow.
“The intent is people are noticed and understand people will be out there shooting and hunting during hunting season,” Chairman John Farrell said.
Task Force member Dan Watson additionally recommended adding language to the Ordinance that would allow target shooters licensed through organizations other than Fish and Game to shoot in the Musquash during turkey and deer seasons.
“Most of the wording in this ordinance came from a proposal I made, and the intent was to follow what Fish and Game does for hunting season, limiting the caliber of firearms and requiring proper licensing. The intent was to capture those people who have a valid hunting license, because to get that license, they have to go through a safety course. You get the responsible users,” he said. “There could be other means to prove you’re a capable safe user of a firearm, whether it’s through the NRA (National Rifle Association), or by taking another safety course. You may want to address adding other language to include people who have other valid licenses.”
The Council encouraged members of the Task Force, as well as all members of the community interested in the issue of target shooting in the Musquash, to attend the public hearing at their Sept. 14 meeting.
In other business Monday night:
• The Council voted 5-0 to approve the expenditure of $8,249 from the Expendable Maintenance Trust Fund for electrical improvements to the bandstand on the Town Common, and significant repairs in the server room at Town Hall.