Government & Politics

July 28, 2014

Jackson County legislators repeal controversial ordinance that made some hunting illegal

The Jackson County Legislature on Monday unanimously approved deleting a section of the county weapons code that prohibited discharging firearms or arrows in parts of eastern Jackson County. The ordinance had confused and angered some landowners, who said it prohibited them from hunting on their property.

Once again, eastern Jackson County landowners can hunt legally on their properties.

The Jackson County Legislature on Monday unanimously approved deleting a section of the county weapons code that prohibited shooting firearms in parts of unincorporated eastern Jackson County.

The vote followed 45 minutes of testimony before the legislature’s justice and law enforcement committee. The swift action pleased a crowd that filled all available chairs and lined the walls of the legislative chambers in the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Independence.

The old ordinance, approved in December, prohibited shooting firearms or arrows anywhere within irregular patches of land within the county’s “urban development tier.” That tier covers patches of land stretching from near Greenwood to near Sugar Creek.

Legislators and other officials said they had been motivated by genuine concerns over negligent gun owners discharging firearms in a manner that allowed bullets to strike residences.

A county official displayed maps Monday pinpointing the locations of nine incidents reported to the sheriff’s office before the December vote. Seven more incidents have been reported since.

Greg Grounds, the former Blue Springs mayor who co-sponsored last year’s ordinance, insisted that he and his colleagues had meant well.

“It was well-intentioned,” he said, adding, “It was not well thought out by myself.”

Melissa Morehead, a Blue Springs resident whose family owns 36 acres in one of the affected areas, said the ordinance had caused rampant confusion.

“In one hasty move, you criminalized hunting,” she said. “You criminalized that and you didn’t tell us.”

Lack of communication compounded the problem, she said.

“We spent the Fourth of July weekend calling our neighbors,” Morehead said. “For seven months, if we were shooting our guns, we were doing it illegally.”

Joe DeBold, an urban wildlife biologist with the Missouri Conservation Department, testified that property owners who hunt lawfully assist the department in controlling wildlife.

“They have to be able to discharge firearms,” DeBold said.

The legislature unanimously approved the new ordinance, which retains language that prohibits shooters from firing bullets or arrows beyond property boundaries.

Afterward, Kevin Jamison of the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance promised assistance if the legislature ever wanted to revisit the issue.

“None of us want unsafe practices going on,” said Jamison. “That doesn’t help anybody.”

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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