The Northumberland Board of Supervisors voted last week to advertise a repeal of county code section §72-4, which bans the possession of loaded shotguns and rifles in vehicles on public roads. The board will hold a public hearing on the issue and conduct a final vote at its April 13 meeting.
“I feel like the [Dept. of Wildlife Resources] backed us into a corner,” said Ronald L. Jett, Vice-chairman of the board. Jett feels that the board is being forced to repeal the code because it can’t create its own definition of a loaded firearm that would only allow §72-4 to target weapons with chambered ammunition.
If the board repeals the county code section on April 13, it will have until May 1 to inform DWR of the revision for it to be included in the agency’s annual guidebook.
The county has debated the ordinance since January after learning from a conservation police officer that DWR defines any gun containing bullets or shells in the magazine or chamber as a loaded firearm. Previously, the board had only considered guns with chambered bullets or shells to be loaded.
The board is moving to repeal the ordinance because it doesn’t believe that it would be reasonable to require hunters to unload their magazines before driving on public roadways.
Supervisor James Brann feels that hunters will be safer if the ordinance is repealed.
“I just think it’s more dangerous to ask someone to unload and load a gun five or six times a day. To me, that is more dangerous than having it loaded with the safety on and having it where it needs to be,” Brann said.
The Northumberland Sheriff’s Dept. rarely enforces the ordinance, which is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a $100 fine. Jane Wrightson, Northumberland’s commonwealth attorney, said she can’t recall prosecuting anyone for violating the ordinance in her 14 years on the job.
The board also voted to hold a public hearing to decide whether to update county code section §72-7 to reference a new provision in the state code. The current provision referenced by the county code section has been repealed. The county code section makes it unlawful for someone to possess a loaded firearm on a public highway if they aren’t authorized to hunt on private property on both sides of the highway.
The public hearings will allow concerned citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions related to both county code sections. The board hopes to bring in a conservation police officer to add his or her perspective on each issue.
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