It's now official. Portola Valley residents not in law enforcement are allowed to fire BB guns within town boundaries, but unless they are defending themselves or someone else, they may not fire pellet guns, air rifles or other guns that operate by the expansion of gas in a chamber.
In a unanimous vote, the Town Council amended the town's firearms ordinance at its Nov. 12 meeting. The amendment originally banned BB gun shooting, but that language was dropped after a discussion led by councilmen Ted Driscoll and Steve Toben, who questioned the wisdom of a law that some might see as the town getting involved in family decisions.
Mayor Maryann Moise Derwin brought the matter to the council in response to the August pellet-gun shooting and subsequent death of a pet cat of the Raab family on Cresta Vista Lane.
The unanimous vote was in spite of apparent doubts over the law's interpretation.
"I worry that the town is using ordinances to tell parents how to raise their children," Mr. Driscoll said, adding that an attorney defending a 16-year-old could make a case that the town overreached.
"I think there is wisdom in the statement that Councilman Driscoll just made," acting Town Attorney Dan Siegel said.
"I would like nothing more than to get that jerk who did this and prosecute him," Mr. Toben said, but added that the perception of overreaching could dilute the council's authority and hold the town up to ridicule. The amendment is also silent on the use of slingshots and bows, he noted.
The law is not perfect, Councilwoman Ann Wengert said. The council may be somewhat of an overreach, but shooting ranges are available and no one is infringing on anyone's right to own guns, she added.
"I think it's an enlightened view," Ms. Derwin said. "Children don't need to be encouraged to use guns."
Councilman Richard Merk said he found himself in range of a pellet gun when a resident had set up some cans on a fence by a creek. "There are lots of big parcels in town, but there are a lot of small ones, too," he said.