Cecil County Council Discusses Gunfire Limits, After Child’s Death from Stray “Celebratory” Shot
Cecil County Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1) on Tuesday proposed a draft bill to limit discharge of firearms in close proximity to homes as a way to prevent tragic but unintended consequences of shooting guns into the air in so-called “celebratory” firings—in response to the death several months ago of a child in Cecil County.
McCarthy said he was not formally introducing the measure as a binding resolution at this point, but wanted to stimulate a discussion about how to protect children and innocent bystanders from stray bullets while still respecting the rights of hunters, target shooters and gun owners who want to be able to protect their home and family.
“There is unnecessary, reckless discharge of weapons,” McCarthy said, especially on holidays such as the Fourth of July, that place innocent neighbors at risk of being hit by stray bullets. “What goes up must come down,” he said.
A ten-year-old Pennsylvania girl, Aaliyah Destiny Boyer, died after she was shot in the head while in the yard of her grandparents’ Elk Neck home—the victim of what police called “celebratory” gunfire on New Year’s Eve that sent a stray bullet into the yard and struck the child as she and her family were watching fireworks displays in the sky. Police have not identified a suspect in the shooting.
The child’s death was the direct result of “unnecessary discharge of a weapon,” McCarthy said. He added that if the legislation proceeds, he would like to name it in honor of Aaliyah.
McCarthy’s proposal, which he said was modeled after a law already on the books in Harford County, provides that it would be illegal to fire or discharge any firearm:
–On the property of another person without written permission of the land owner or tenant;
–“In the direction of any residential dwelling… or school”;
–“On public property” without advance written permission;
–“Wherein the projectile or projectiles traverse the property of another so as to endanger life, limb or property;”
–“Within 150 yards of any residential dwelling …or school” without written permission of the property owner;
–The proposed legislation would not apply with the town limits of the county’s incorporated towns.
Councilor Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2) asked how the legislation would be enforced. McCarthy replied that residents could report suspicious gunfire to local police or the Sheriff’s Department.
“We’ll have to educate to public” about the dangers of such random gunfire, Bowlsbey said.
McCarthy noted that in his largely rural southern Cecil County district, gunfire is an often-heard occurrence. But he said that residents must become more aware of the potential consequences to innocent bystanders.
Indeed, in southern Cecil County gunfire is often a chorus of both hunting season and out-of-season weapons discharges. From groundhogs menacing small dogs in residents’ yards to potentially rabid raccoons staggering around backyard decks, wildlife intrusions in rural areas often require an armed response from homeowners.
McCarthy said his proposal would not apply to anyone protecting their homes and family members from threats to their safety.
And taking out a potentially rabid raccoon requires a downward, ground shot—not an up in the sky firing that could traverse property lines and strike innocent children.