Friday, February 21, 2014

County specifies no-shooting zone

But state law limits effect


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

     Prompted by the well-publicized shooting of two elk at the Hulen Meadows subdivision in November, the Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday tightened a county ordinance regarding shooting near houses. However, they acknowledged that it would have little effect given limitations imposed by state code on counties’ ability to regulate firearms.

     Three Hulen Meadows residents attended the meeting at the old Blaine County Courthouse, requesting farther no-shooting boundaries around residential areas. They said six elk were killed very close to Hulen Meadows houses in early November.

     “It’s unsafe,” Spence Browning said. “We just want to protect our homes.”

     “I don’t want to have to live inside my house when there are hunters around,” said Jima Rice.

     Since 1982, Blaine County code (4-2-1) has included two contradictory ordinances on the subject—one that prohibits shooting within 150 yards of a house and another that prohibits shooting within 1,000 feet of a house, outbuilding “or other area where livestock are concentrated.”

     Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves told the commissioners that both ordinances were passed within two weeks of each other. He said it appears that the board of commissioners passed the 1,000-foot ordinance first, then intended to supersede it with the 150-yard ordinance. However, he said, the first ordinance was never taken off the books.

     “There must have been some backlash to make that radical change two weeks later,” he said.

     At the very least, Graves advised, the county should delete one ordinance or the other.

     However, he pointed out, state code (18-3302J) severely limits the circumstances in which a county can regulate shooting. It prohibits county ordinances from applying to legal hunting, defense, shooting on one’s own property and target ranges.

     The county would be unable, therefore, to prohibit the shooting incidents that occurred at Hulen Meadows.

     “It’s all subject to the limitations of Idaho code, which largely guts our enforcement ability,” Graves said.

     He said the county could pass a more restrictive ordinance than that allowed by state code, as a statement and a deterrent, but prosecutors would be unable to bring charges that conflict with state law. Commissioner Larry Schoen said a county ordinance could be applied to poaching incidents.

     Commissioners Jacob Greenberg and Angenie McCleary supported the 1,000-foot limit, though Schoen argued that such a limit would be too restrictive to people in rural parts of the county.

     By a 2-1 margin, the commissioners voted to amend county code to prohibit shooting within 1,000 feet of a dwelling “subject to the limitations expressed in Idaho code.”




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