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Cecil County Council Discusses Gunfire Limits, After Child’s Death from Stray “Celebratory” Shot

July 9, 2013
By Nancy Schwerzler

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.

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5 Responses to Cecil County Council Discusses Gunfire Limits, After Child’s Death from Stray “Celebratory” Shot

  1. Raymond coleman on July 10, 2013 at 8:14 am

    I thought there was a law that said you have to be 100 yards from a resident

  2. Leslie Winston on July 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you, Mr. McCarthy, for proposing a common sense solution to this incomprehensible problem. How can any reasonable adult think it is OK to shoot a gun into the air, and not worry about what happens when the bullet comes down to the ground?

    My heart breaks for the family of Destiny– a lovely child whose life was suddenly ended by a local idiot. It is time to show Cecil County and the rest of this state that our county will not tolerate criminals and idots who take an innocent life for their own stupid entertainment.

  3. Ron Lobos on July 12, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I believe that Councilman Alan McCarthy’s proposed legislation was just common sense. The ‘Campaign for Liberty’ group has over analyzed this bill and has read into it much that is not there. C4L is out of line.

    There is nothing in this bill that is restrictive to people with common sense. I support Alan McCarthy on this bill and stress that all liberty-minded people out there should do the same. It’s just the right thing to do.

  4. Kevin Emmerich on July 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Dear Alan McCarthy and Council members,

    I think Mrs. Bowlsbey is right– firearm education is better than more regulations. Laws are not going to stop some guy who’s been drinking from shooting a firearm in the air on July 4th or New Years. I know the death of that little girl is tragic, but you’re falling into the same trap that Owe Malley led us into.

    The problem I see as a new gun owner is there’s no place locally that teaches gun safety. The only gun ranges that have instruction are 35 miles away in either direction.

    The volunteer fire companies in this county are complaining of a lack of volunteers and funding. Why don’t the Volunteer fire companies in this county offer firearm safety instruction? They could have classroom instruction at a firehouse and maybe they could work a deal with DNR to have live fire training at the range in Northeast. The fire companies could get some extra income and use the onsite training to recruit new members.

    I didn’t want to be long winded here so if you would like to discuss this further call me. Remember that punishing the responsible gun owner won’t stop this kind of thing from happening.

  5. Joe C on July 13, 2013 at 9:42 am

    This proposal could be simplified by passing an ordinance which simply states “no projectile can leave the property of the person firing it or persons authorized to shoot on said property unless adjoining property owners have authorized such” (this is so if you are hunting with permission of two adjoining property owners there will be no violation).

    As proposed here there are two many openings for interpretation by anti-gun DAs and politicians! Any proposal should be vetted with the NRA, hunting groups and other gun rights groups. We do not want to follow the lead of the liberals in MD, CT, NY and CO that passed knee jerk gun laws which hurt law abiding citizens!

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