While gun-control legislation grabs the national and state spotlight, some Roswell residents are keeping their eyes on a local proposal they say could hinder their right to shoot certain weapons.
Hunters are focusing on a call to require annual permits for people to fire weapons such as BB guns, air rifles and bows and arrows anywhere outside a licensed shooting range.
As proposed, the ordinance would also require a person firing such weapons to have written permission from the property owner where the shooting takes place. The note would have to be dated within one month of the time the license is issued or renewed.
The changes would not apply to regular guns or rifles. Under the current ordinance, it is unlawful for anyone other than the police to fire a gun or rifle in Roswell unless the person is at a licensed firing range, or protecting life or property.
Roswell would charge $25 for a “discharge of weapons” license and a $10 fee for renewals.
Councilwoman Becky Wynn said the new language strengthens protections for property owners and compensates the city for the expense of background checks.
But some other members of the City Council had misgivings.
Councilwoman Betty Price questioned the need for the fees and found the annual renewal requirement too restrictive.
“You know, I can get a driver’s license and a number of other things that don’t require annual registration,” she said.
The ordinance changes are scheduled to be discussed again before the city takes any final action, but several residents who were on hand for the first reading in January said it perpetuates Roswell’s reputation for over-governance.
Hunting advocate Bob Coombs said the city has seen a dramatic increase in the white-tail deer population since the first licensing requirements in 2005. Even City Council members have phoned him, asking what is being done to control the population, he said.
“There’s no (city) in the state that un-incentivizes harvesting a doe like the city of Roswell,” he said.
Under the proposal, Coombs said, a person could become ineligible to have a license for five years and face a $2,000 fine if he fires at a target that runs onto another’s property, or is caught shooting without a license.
Once resident suggested that aspects of the proposed ordinance might be unenforceable. John Monroe, a Roswell lawyer, said the new language would make it unlawful for minors to hunt without adult supervision, when state law allows they can.
“The city is pre-empted by state law from regulating hunting,” Monroe said.
Roswell’s current weapons ordinance sparked controversy eight years ago when city leaders proposed removing language that allowed residents to discharge a weapon to protect property. That effort died after it attracted the attention of the National Rifle Association, which sent out a nationwide alert to drum up opposition.