Cars lined County Rd. 10 and the crowd spilled into the gymnasium at Monday night’s Special Council Meeting to receive public input on the proposed by-law to limit the discharge of firearms in the community. Residents who oppose the by-law came with reinforcements from organizations such as the Federation of Anglers and Hunters to articulate their concerns about the limits outlined in the proposal. At the opening of the meeting, Mayor McFadden explained that the proposed by-law was not designed to regulate hunting and would not in any way restrict actions taken on the farm in protection of livestock. A number of revisions to the proposal that had already received Council support were identified, including the removal of the reference to bows, pellet and air guns from the legislation. Sensing the intensity of the sentiment in the crowd, Mayor McFadden requested the audience respect those who approached the microphone to state their views, and the audience response was limited to applause after each speaker who rose in opposition to the by-law.
The arguments against the proposal began with the suggestion that gun activity was already heavily regulated by more senior levels of government and the municipality was over-reaching in its attempt to further curtail the actions of law abiding gun owners on their own properties. A number of speakers, including Vera Carter, an international Rifle competitor, spoke to the strong culture of gun safety amongst firearms owners in Canada, describing the knowledge and respect gun owners hold for their weapons. Many speakers explained the importance of target practice, saying that it allowed them to take “ethical” shots while hunting. Through practice, one resident said he learned his limitations, which allowed him to understand when to take a shot and when to hold back, because conditions were such that he would not be confident of making a clean shot. Another speaker noted that practising on clay targets prevents unnecessary injuries to live targets. A young female student in opposition to the proposal suggested that by limiting shooting to owners and residents of the property, it discriminated against people who could not afford a rural property.
The meeting was interrupted by a severe rain storm that knocked out the streaming system allowing remote viewing of the event, including those watching in the gym. When the electronic system could not be restored, the audience in the Council chambers were moved into the gym so everyone on site could hear the proceedings.
In the end, only one resident rose to speak in support of the by-law and struggled to be heard over side conversations in the crowd. The complete draft by-law can be found on the township website by clicking the “News and Public Notices” button at the top of the main page, www.cavanmonaghan.net. The issue will return to the agenda at the next regular Council meeting scheduled for 1pm on June 20nd. KG