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Hunting/firearm ordinance amended to mirror state’s 150-yard law

by CJ Carnacchio

July 20, 2011

Oxford Township last week amended its ordinance regulating hunting and the discharge of firearms to mirror state law as it pertains to various occupied structures, but not before the public discharged a few opinions on the subject.

"We are in a populated township and we really should not have any firearms (discharged) within 1 mile of either a subdivision or a school," said Oxford resident Charlotte Thurston.

"If you expanded it to a mile, it wouldn't stop somebody from doing it," said Oxford resident Ron Meyer. "If you were to expand your law to as far as a bullet could travel, frankly, there'd be no hunting and no shooting in Oxford."

Township officials voted 4-2 to amend the hunting/firearms discharge ordinance to state that a person cannot hunt or discharge a firearm within 150 yards (450 feet) of an occupied building, dwelling, house, residence, cabin or any barn or building used in connection with a farming operation.

The only way a person can hunt or shoot within that 150-yard safety zone is if they obtain written permission from the owner, renter or occupant of the property.

The township's previous ordinance, parts of which were adopted in 1968 and 1974, basically outlined specific areas within the nicipality where hunting and the discharge of firearms was prohibited.

This amendment basically eliminates those prohibited areas and gives people the right, as outlined by state law, to hunt or discharge firearms anywhere they wish within the township as long as their at least 150 yards away from the aforementioned structures or have written permission to be closer.

To Thurston, 150 yards is simply too short of a distance.

"I do applaud trying to strengthen the current firearms ordinance, but we're long past 450 feet," she said. "We've expanded now over the last 20 years to a great extent and the homes and the subdivisions are here, and we need to do something to protect people before someone is injured or killed."

"The 150 yards is better than nothing, but it's woefully inadequate. We really need a mile for a safety," she noted.

Kelly Abraham, of Oxford, agreed the distance needs to be greater.

"We need to expand the area that people can fire firearms around buildings that house our children," she said.

Thurston and Abraham were among a handful of Oxford Woods subdivision residents who attended the meeting to voice their concern after a centerfire rifle bullet penetrated and damaged an Oxford Woods home owned by the Hrischuk family. It's believed the shot occurred July 3. The responsible party has not been found.

"Something has to be done," Thurston said.

"I never in a million years thought that something like this would happen in our neighborhood," Abraham said.

It was noted that in both the old ordinance and the newly-adopted version, hunting with or discharging a centerfire rifle is unlawful in the township unless it's done at a target range recognized and approved by the township board.

It was also noted there are currently no such authorized ranges within the township's boundaries.

Michelle Hrischuk indicated her goal is to raise public awareness and get whoever's been doing the shooting to stop.

"If it didn't come through my house, nobody would know that they're doing it or firing high-powered rifles. So, in a way, it's a wake-up call to everybody," she said. "I hoping the guy or woman or kid who did it knows and they say, 'Oh my gosh, I'll never do that again.'"

Hrischuk made it clear that she's not anti-gun, she just wants to raise awareness and ensure that what happened to her, doesn't happen to anyone else.

"If you have the acreage and it's listed with the township and the police department, and you're firing and following the rules, that's great. I'm not against that," she said. "I'm still going to hear it. I live in Oxford. It's great. There's horse country, there's guns, there's hunt clubs."

All of the Oxford Woods residents who spoke indicated they regularly hear gunshots in their area. "Sometimes it's just a few rounds. Other times it's gone on as long as 4½ hours," Thurston said.

"I just implore you to either ask the sheriff to find out where this firing is coming from and to stay on them until they do or to do what is in your power to make our township safe," Abraham said.

Residents aren't the only ones hearing gunfire. "I hear shots out there all the time," said Trustee Sue Bellairs. "If there's people out there doing something illegal, we need to step up our police patrol and see what's going on out there."

Oakland County Sheriff's Det. Jason Louwaert and Deputy Earl Griem told officials and residents at the meeting that it's imperative they immediately report the shots when they hear them.

"The people need to call when the problem is occurring and our officers in the area will respond to it as soon as they possibly can," Louwaert said. These laws, in general, are difficult to enforce because it is random. The sound travels very far, so it's hard to pinpoint a location, which again is why it's so important we get called while this is happening."

"Call us while it's happening, not after it's happening," Griem said. "It's next to impossible to catch anybody when they're not shooting."

The non-emergency number for the sheriff's dispatch center is (248) 858-4950. If someone believes it's an emergency or they're in danger, they can call 9-1-1.

Supervisor Bill Dunn made it known "this board insists that the Oxford substation vigorously go after and try to pursue anyone that violates" the hunting/firearms discharge ordinance.

"I can assure you that the deputies that work in Oxford Township will respond," he said. "I can guarantee that because I will personally go there and direct the substation commander to follow up on that."

Meyer noted that passing stricter ordinances regarding hunting and the discharge of firearms isn't going to stop lawbreakers.

"You can pass all the laws you want," he said. "You already have laws that would cover this. If there are people who are going to disobey, they're going to disobey . . . There is nothing you as a board can do to keep people from violating the law. It's only when they're caught, you can enforce (it)."

Dunn echoed that sentiment.

"The problem is we've got laws against manslaughter, we've got laws against kidnapping. It doesn't deter some of these idiots from breaking the law, so to have a law on the books doesn't necessarily mean this type of erratic behavior is going to stop," the supervisor explained.