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Troy officials discover they can’t change gun laws; cancel hearing on ordinance

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 8:00 am

TROY — Town officials have discovered they don’t have the authority to further limit gun use near public places frequented by children.

Troy Police Chief David B. Ellis had proposed an ordinance to make it a violation to shoot a gun, whether it’s on public or private property, within 1,000 feet of a school, recreation area, park, playground or other outdoor public gathering place designated by selectmen.

Federal law makes it illegal to possess or discharge a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, but only on public property. Private property is exempt from the law.

Troy Selectmen Chairman William T. Matson said state law prohibits cities and towns from regulating any type of gun activity, and, therefore, a hearing on the ordinance Monday is canceled.

According to state law, no city, town or county can regulate the “sale, purchase, ownership, use, possession, transportation, licensing, permitting, taxation, or other matter pertaining to firearms, firearms components, ammunition, or firearms supplies in the state.”

While the ordinance is now moot, that shouldn’t overshadow the police chief’s continued efforts to make sure the town’s children are safe, Matson said.

“He is constantly working with the schoolkids on safety awareness,” Matson said of Ellis. “The only motivation for this type of ordinance is keeping Troy’s children safe. That is Dave’s passion.”

The proposed ordinance stemmed from an incident last year, when someone target shooting in a remote area near Troy Elementary School caused the school to go into lockdown.

Troy Elementary School is on School Street, and surrounded by a mostly residential area.

Town officials are taking no political stance on the ordinance, and doubt that local legislators have the desire to take up a cause at the state level that could be perceived as limiting gun owners’ rights, Matson said.

In the meantime, Ellis is considering asking property owners who have open land around the school to put up signs saying hunting and shooting aren’t allowed, Matson said.

“Sometimes the simplest approach is best,” he said.