Portola Valley bans firing of pellet and air guns

Proposal is response to pellet-gun killing of a cat

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.


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Posted by Tortious
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Nov 19, 2008 at 4:59 am

The Town's anti-air gun language should be amended to include a privilege to defend one's home, land, and pets from intruders. Why can't responsible home owners use an air gun to defend their property against varmints? Who in Portola Valley would hesitate to use an air gun to defend their dog or cat from a bobcat or mountain lion? Under this ordinance, such uses are now prohibited. A windfall for Voles, but a loss for dear ole-Fido.

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Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:36 am

David Boyce is a registered user.

Dear Tortious - Note that the amended ordinance does not prohibit ownership of guns, including air-powered guns, nor does it preclude the use of an air-gun or other weapon to defend oneself or others.

I suspect that the self-defense clause includes one's pets.

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Posted by stupid lawmakers
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:46 pm

This is just another dumb feel good law. It does nothing. If Im going to be evil and shoot someones pet this does nothing to stop it. Isn't animal cruelty a criminal offense?

and while you are pumping up your daisy red rider to defend anything Ill let loose with my .357 magnum...have a nice day.

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Posted by Tortious
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Nov 20, 2008 at 7:23 am

Dear David,

Thanks for your reply. I hope you're assumptions are correct (though that is a big assumption). However, I still disagree with the town's ordinance. Not only is the ordinance legislative surplusage (there are adequate remedies available for harmful discharges of these weapons -- think criminal and civil penalties); it is unenforceable. Do you really think the sheriff's department is going to waste resources responding to someone's otherwise harmless use of an air gun? If they are, wouldn't that the money the spend so responding be better spent on our schools?



Like this comment
Posted by lonewolf
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:36 pm

another stupid law passed by the minority, why not put this on the
ballot and let the people vote on it instead of unintelligent
Town Council

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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