Weapons law limits shooting in eastern Jackson County

rpulley@lsjournal.comJuly 23, 2014 

Jackson County is taking a second look at an ordinance revision that stops hunting and target shooting in some rural areas.

In December, the legislature amended its ordinance on using guns or bows, to make firing the weapons illegal in its Urban Development Tier, which is basically part of unincorporated areas outside towns.

As more people are learning about the tougher restrictions, the outcry has grown to where the legislature is planning a July 28 public hearing in Independence.

An unintended consequence could be on wildlife areas and parks where Missouri Department of Conservation holds managed hunts to control deer populations, such as Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area or James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area on Ranson Road at the Lee’s Summit city limit.

Landowners of larger tracts in eastern Jackson County said the new ordinance interferes with their plans for using their property.

Melissa Morehead is owner of 36 acres on Major Road, in eastern Jackson County, where her family likes to shoot skeet for recreation. Her neighbors have 22-25 and 200-acre tracts, all of that land with only one house, yet they cannot target shoot or hunt, she said in an interview.

She said she hadn’t heard about the restriction until neighbors were told about it by a sheriff’s deputy.

“The more we find out about it, the less we like about it,” Morehead said. “They don’t understand. It was too far reaching, it’s a little shrill about why it’s needed. We were getting along pretty well until someone started meddling.”

She said the urban development tier boundary defined as taking the first one-half mile from city limits in the county, then extending it to the first road.

In December, the legislature unanimously enacted the amendment. Large parts of eastern Jackson County are still outside the urban tier so hunting isn’t completely banned.

Bob Spence, a Jackson County legislator who represents the Lee’s Summit area, said the legislators didn’t give it a lot of thought, overlooking the fact that areas within that tier have large acreages where shooting could be done safely.

“Urban development means houses (to me),” Spence said. “In the interest of safety, that makes sense. But then when you see a map of that tier, there’s a whole lot of area where it doesn’t make sense to ban hunting.”

The ordinance previously said a weapon, like a bow or gun, that discharges a projectile can’t be fired in reckless manner or in a densely populated area, and that the projectile can’t leave the property.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp said he had asked the county for a better definition of densely populated so deputies could properly enforce the ordinance. The department had gotten a complaint of a bullet hitting a building, he said. He said he did not want to stop people from hunting or target shooting if it doesn’t endanger a neighbor.

“All I want is for people, if they choose to hunt with high-powered rifles, is to do it safely,” Sharp said. Even a .22-caliber bullet can travel a long way, he said, so shooters need be careful of their target, what’s beyond it and alert to possibility of ricochet.

Sharp said he wasn’t aware of any citations issued under the revised ordinance and deputies have been advising landowners of the change.

Spence said it makes sense for the legislature to take a second look.

Residents are saying, “Wait a minute, I’ve got a big piece of land, and I can’t shoot?” Spence said. He said he’s is open to a compromise.

“I want to hear what they have to say about it,” Spence said. “Safety has got to be the bottom line.”

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