- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maryland’s Howard County, a growing part of the D.C. metropolitan area, appears to want to put a stop to or seriously restrict hunting - in particular, hunting with shotguns or muzzleloaders.

In a sign of modern-day America, this is yet one more locality filled with urban newcomers - many from other parts of the country - who believe hunting should be relegated to the dustbins of yesteryear.

Howard County Council, at the request of county executive Ken Ulman, introduced Bill No. 1-2009, “an act prohibiting the discharge of a gun within a certain distance from certain structures under certain conditions; prohibiting the discharge of a gun in the direction of certain structures; providing for certain exceptions; making certain technical corrections; defining certain terms; and generally related to firearm control provisions in the Howard County Code.”

Typical government gobbledygook that at first glance appears to be innocuous.

However, the question that the county’s perfectly legitimate hunters and target shooters want more answers to is the language of the bill, which in Section 8.401 (a) says “A person shall not discharge any gun within the metropolitan district, whether the gun is loaded with fixed or blank ammunition or projectiles of any kind.” In section (b) it goes on to say “a person shall not discharge any gun outside the metropolitan district, whether the gun is loaded with fixed or blank ammunition or projectiles of any kind, except at varmints on the ground or at legal game as permitted by the department of natural resources of the State of Maryland.”

Why the county council inserted further language about safety distances for shooting near an occupied dwelling and/or public roadway is odd since Maryland already has firm language about what you may or may not do.

After reading the entire bill - endorsed by council members Calvin Ball, Greg Fox, Mary Kay Sigaty and Jennifer Terrasa - Howard County resident Joe Webster said, “The proposal essentially eliminates all deer hunting in Howard County, based on a 300-yard firearms discharge distance from buildings [and] dwellings.”

Howard County resident Jim Murray, who lives in Columbia, explained what the words “metropolitan district” stand for and how the bill will affect hunters and shooters of any type.

“The metropolitan district is defined as all of the areas within the county served by water and sewer lines,” he said. “Where water and sewer do not exist, the lot sizes are bigger [to allow for septic systems] by zoning law. Bigger lots, less density. The defining line is generally along Route 108 where it runs north and south through the county to Clarksville. But then it gets messy heading toward Route 40.

“Clause A covers what can be discharged for hunting outside of the metro district - i.e., ‘guns,’ meaning both shotgun and muzzleloader. This clause also puts a new restriction of 10 acres of land for hunting outside of the metro district which did not exist before.”

Murray said if you are a Howard County hunter, this newly proposed legislation will seriously restrict your ability to hunt deer with a shotgun or muzzleloader on private and public land within the county.

A public hearing on the bill will be held at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday at the Department of Education building in Columbia.

“If you want to voice your objection to this bill or offer alternative language that would not be so restrictive, then you need to either go to this hearing and sign up to testify, or send written objections or comments to the council via e-mail,” Murray said.

Phone the council at 410/313-2001 to get an update on the hearing schedule or to sign up to testify. Written testimony can be sent to [email protected]

If there is not a significant show by hunters to let the county council know how they feel, Murray and Webster believe that the bill will be enacted at the end of January.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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