Letter to the Editor: County Ordinance 02-223 and Firearms Rights

By KHALIL SPENCER
Los Alamos

In a Letter to the Editor in the Los Alamos Daily Post, Mr. Vincent Chiravalle conflates a 2012 County ordinance regulating the discharge of firearms and archery equipment within the county with gun control laws meant to prevent the commission of violent gun crimes but as an unfortunate side effect of these laws, place the burden for compliance on law abiding citizens.

Here is the ordinance in question:

Sec. 28-181. Discharging firearms and other hunting devices.

It is unlawful to fire or discharge a firearm or any muzzleloader of any description within 1,000 yards, or any bow and arrow, crossbow, or other hunting device within 150 yards of any dwelling, house, inhabited building or any area or place where livestock is regularly kept or housed; provided, however, that any person may discharge a firearm or other hunting devices when reasonably necessary to carry out his duty or to exercise a legal right or privilege or when the discharge is within a lawfully operated shooting range.

Nothing herein shall preclude the safe use of bow and arrows or crossbows confined exclusively within private property.

(Ord. No. 74-78, § 10-1-19, 1983; Code 1985, § 9.24.010; Ord. No. 02-223, § 1, 2-28-2012)

I don’t see this ordinance as addressing violent crime, in any way restricting my 2nd Amendment rights, or adding an undue burden such as licensing, registration, or background checks. Indeed, such a move by a municipality in New Mexico is explicitly prohibited by Art. II, § 6. the New Mexico State Constitution:

No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons.  No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms. Art. II, § 6 (first sentence enacted in 1971, second sentence added 1986).

What I see in 28-181 is a common sense safety regulation that ensures we don’t accidentally shoot each other or each other’s animals by hunting or target shooting in developed areas where one cannot always vouch for the safety of what is downrange. Such locations include not only residential areas but our heavily used trails on the mesas and in the canyons. I don’t think such restrictions are unusual, and are consistent with good firearms practice. Indeed, when I first started handling guns as a kid, the first thing my dad, an NRA Life Member, taught me was “always be sure of your backstop and what is downrange of your target”.

I recall there being some discussion in 2012 regarding the final wording of this ordinance, and I am not aware of the original wording. Apparently, there was discussion among stakeholders before the final draft of the ordinance was passed. That’s how the system should work.

I thank Mr. Chiravalle for his promise, if elected, to protect my 2nd Amendment rights, but I think as far as this ordinance was concerned, he is shooting at the wrong target. Meanwhile, we have had yet another senseless, mass shooting in the United States, this one by a demented student at UC Santa Barbara. While the pro and anti-gun folks continue to talk past each other, no one has implemented a meaningful way to both protect our 2nd Amendment rights and our right to be free from deranged lunatics with a chip on their shoulder and a deadly weapon in their pocket.

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