East Cocalico residents seek legislation following shooting incident

By on March 9, 2016

 

In the wake of a backyard target shooting incident Sunday in which a stray bullet injured a woman, two residents Thursday asked East Cocalico Township supervisors for legislation.

Local governments in Pennsylvania do have authority to regulate shooting ranges.

In comments to LNP before the meeting, all three supervisors expressed concerns about the incident and said they are looking into whether anything can be done legally by the township.

“We’re doing a lot of research; we’ve all been reading up on it,” said Supervisor Noelle Fortna.

“It’s complicated,” added supervisor Vice Chairman Alan Fry.

Supervisor Chairman Douglas Mackley said the board will have to consider what makes sense for all of the township’s residents.

“We want to do the right thing,” Mackley said. “We’re looking into it. We don’t want to jump the gun.”

During the public meeting, Mackley responded to residents asking about what can be done to make the township safer.

Jeff Mitchell asked if the supervisors are considering any legal changes.

June Wolf also called on the board to think about limiting target shooting, citing noise issues and asking whether the township could authorize police to control extended target shooting.

“Our township has development parcels that are a quarter of an acre,” Mackley said. “Some might have 20 to 30 acres – do you want to penalize those people?”

East Cocalico, which has a population of 10,310 residents and a density of 500 residents per square mile, does not have a law regulating backyard target shooting. Neighboring Adamstown and Denver boroughs, with population densities that are more than double that of East Cocalico, have rules to regulate the shooting of firearms. West Cocalico Township, which has a population of 7,280 and a density of 264 residents per square mile, does not have such a law.

Mackley said he looked into township law and found the township has a 1960s ordinance regulating pellet guns and air rifles, but nothing for other types of firearms.

“I’m going to push to have this board look at something, but do it the right way,” Mackley said. “I feel very badly for the person who this affected.”

It was on Sunday, Feb. 28, that a bullet struck a 22-year-old woman in the neck in her home in the 500 block of Reinholds Road, north of Denver, police said. Shooters fired at a tree stump in a pasture behind the woman’s home Sunday, police said.

East Cocalico Police Sgt. Terry Arment said his department conferred with the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office and called a regional wildlife conservation officer who confirmed there is no state law prohibiting target shooting. Game law addresses certain situations, but does not apply to this particular set of circumstances.

“We’re investigating whether some reckless action had taken place,” Arment said.

On Friday, Arment said a meeting with the District Attorney took place that day, but no charges were filed. He said the hospital has confirmed the victim’s condition as “stable.”

Residents on Buena Vista Lane, not far from the shooting site, talked to reporters about safety concerns, as well as the nuisance of loud target practice sessions.

They said they worry mostly about safety, but also hate the loud noise of the frequent shooting.

East Cocalico supervisors will meet again Thursday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m. at 100 Hill Road, Denver.

Justin Stoltzfus is a correspondent for LNP.

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