On its third meeting deliberating the issue, the Anna City Council agreed on amending the city’s ordinance regarding the discharge of firearms. The ordinance, found on the city website under Part II, Article 29, section 4, was mainly discussed by councilors Justin Burr and Kenneth Pelham and City Manager Philip Sanders. The amended ordinance would not consider acreage when restricting the firing of air rifles, and instead limit their firing to 150 feet away from an occupied structure.
Sanders introduced the amended ordinance near the end of the Oct. 25 meeting, saying he made clean copies of the ordinance for each councilor, rather than striking the original language out.
“Essentially this ordinance regulates where firearms and weapons can be discharged in the Anna city limits and adjacent property in the ETJ,” Sanders said during the meeting. “Essentially, the discharge of shotguns and pistols is generally permitted on tracts that are 10 acres or larger, discharge of rifles are generally permitted on tracts that are 50 acres or larger, and the discharge of other weapons, such as pellet guns, BB guns, bows and arrows, air rifles is generally permitted on tracts two acres or larger, which is what the current regulation is in our existing ordinance.”
Pelham, however, took issue with the restriction on firing a pellet gun or a BB gun.
“I still have an issue that you can’t shoot a BB gun unless you own two acres,” he said. “… That is absolutely absurd. If I want to teach (my grandchild) how to shoot a bow, I have to load him up and … take him to a shooting range.”
At this, Burr suggested amending the ordinance further by striking the language regarding the acreage required to discharge from that section. He said it would be the least restrictive for families using these guns in a safe manner, and other language still exists in the ordinance to give the Anna Police Department leverage should that be needed.
“I guess the question is do we want to criminalize a father and his 4-year-old child operating a small BB gun in a safe manner in their own yard, that’s not bothering anybody else?” Burr said. “I mean you can still have the nuisance part if they’re making a lot of noise, if there are complaints, the nuisance is still there. So if they’re making a nuisance they’re still in violation.”
Sanders pointed out that a nuisance would have to be proved, however, which is when Councilor Nathan Bryan turned to Anna Police Lt. Jeff Caponera and asked what his thoughts were on the issue.
“I do have a concern, only for the fact that the city is not getting any smaller,” Caponera said. “This has been a process and I haven’t been privy to the entire process, but based on what I heard the past few weeks, this has been a process that I’m sure nobody really wants to take up again in the future, and I’m sure that it will be brought up again in the future if we reduce it down … now. Because one-acre lots are going away very quickly here in the city and we’ve had several incidents where vehicles have been shot out along Highway 5, —”
Pelham cut Caponera off at this point.
“That is pure misconduct, though, in my opinion,” he said. “It has nothing to do with this.”
Caponera continued, “It may be misconduct, but again we’d be opening ourselves up for somebody who’s out target shooting and then it goes off their property if they’re on a two-acre tract. So we’ve got that to contend with. We’ve had several incidents over the summer where children were shot with BB guns, two of them flown to hospitals because their injuries were so severe. … I think this ordinance here would prevent that regardless. We don’t know where those projectiles are going to go. So personally from a police department side of things we’d be against reducing it. … We’d want to keep it as it is.”
Sanders added the goal of including the acreage is to reduce the likelihood that these rifles would be used in an unsafe manner. That alone wasn’t reason enough for Pelham, however, who said that most individuals shooting an air rifle wouldn’t think about acreage size.
“People won’t realize if they’re breaking an acreage restriction,” he said.
He made a motion to accept the revised ordinance with the condition that the phrasing regarding acreage size be removed and the only restriction being that a person must be 150 feet away from an occupied structure. The motion was seconded and passed by the council, with only Councilor Rene Martinez voting against it.