Before submitting to the Town Council their recommendations for addressing target shooting on town-owned conservation properties, the Musquash Task Force will consider public input during their final meeting.
Their last meeting is scheduled for March 25 at 6 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.
The group encourages all members of the public who are interested in the issue to attend and offer their comments.
In addition to voting in favor of holding a public meeting, the Task Force voted 3-4 to recommend in their report member Dan Watson’s proposal to increase Londonderry Police and Fish and Game presence in the Musquash.
Also voting in favor of the patrols were Lt. Gordon Joudrey and member Dana Coons.
The four-hour weekend block patrols would be focused on areas in the Musquash of particular concern with regard to target shooting.
“There’s some risk with the viability of enforcing target shooting,” Watson said. “But the benefits of taking actions outweigh the costs. If we target only users that engage in unlawful target shooting, I believe behavior would be drastically reduced as the public learns of enforcement.”
“I think this is a very good alternative to a total ban,” said Coons, who thinks patrols by officers in the Musquash would have the same effect as patrols that target speeding in town. “Especially, if the police are in there catching people. Whether they’re prosecuted or not, they would explain why their conduct is reckless and the ramifications to them if they’re charged and convicted for that. It would be a heavy deterrent to the reckless shooting that goes on in there, while preserving the right of individuals who are responsible.”
“But we’re still not providing the tools to the police officers to go in and enforce the negligence piece,” member Mike Considine said. “We need some tools the police can use to enforce what’s going on out there, such as an ordinance.”
“If I’m a lawful, safe shooter, I won’t be worried about the police coming out there to get me,” Watson said. “The people who don’t know are the ones who will be driven out.”
“To determine what a nuisance shooter is, or what is safe or unsafe will be very difficult to do,” Deputy Chief Gerard Dussault told the Task Force.
“We tried the education approach,” Considine said. “There were bins with information on how to shoot safely in the Musquash. We did that for a year-and-a-half and target shooting has exploded out there because shooting was advertised.”
“This is active control. This is different than a piece of paper on a kiosk. People will know a police officer is out there looking for them,” Watson said. “This is active patrol, it’s preemptive.”
Considine said he has spent a great deal of time in the Musquash, informing people of safe shooting and directing them away from areas that could result in harm to a person or home, but noted the education approach wasn’t successful.
“If I see an officer in uniform, I’ll think twice about how I’m going to be shooting and where I’m going to be doing it,” Coons said. “There’s a big difference between you and someone wearing a uniform.”
Coons also expressed concern that an outright ban on target shooting will result in an increase in the number of people calling the police when they hear hunters shooting in the area.
But Considine said he’s confident neighbors can tell the difference between target shooting and hunting, where hunting is one or two shots versus 50 to 100 rounds discharged at once by a target shooter.
Coons, Watson and Joudrey voted in favor of weekend-block patrols of the Musquash for a one-year period, and Considine, Randy McIntyre, Jason Breen, and Bonnie McSpiritt voted against the recommendation.
The Task Force agreed to include the recommendation in their minority report, which is to be presented to the Council by April 1.