From the Mayor....
Recently much attention and conversation has been given to Ordinance 2017-01 that I presented to the council on June 12, 2017. It concerned the discharge of firearms within the town limits and whether to extend the existing 200 feet from any building, residence, roadway or business to a ¼ mile. Many citizens within the town limits as well as those outside the town limits attended this meeting and I applaud them for doing so. In this report I will do my best to clarify the reason for this ordinance to have ever been entertained.
I am guilty when I say I allowed the actions of a few to have an influence on my decision concerning this matter. Approximately three months ago it was brought to my attention that some within a short distance from our town hall were firing weapons that did not comply with our current ordinance. I brought this to the attention of our council and made the comment that we needed to be sensitive to the matter and enforce the laws we had in place. At our next meeting we had someone who lived within our town limits attend our meeting that was also alarmed at the amount of weapons that were being discharged inside the town limits. They were concerned if whether or not they were compliant to our present laws. They also brought to our attention the differences between the range of certain firearms and the distance their projectiles can travel. Once again we tabled the matter.
Within the week of this meeting someone fired a small caliber rifle within the town limits and the projectile crossed a roadway and struck a home within feet of their front door. This action broke at least two laws. One being that it crossed a roadway and two it was not contained to their property alone. As I said in the beginning of my report, this is the incident that heightened my awareness and caused me to take action. We have someone on our council who reminds me very often to be “proactive and not reactive”. My decision may have been a “knee jerk reaction” and for this I am guilty as charged.
Since I have served as mayor of Somerville, I feel I have had an obligation to look for ways to improve and protect what so many before me have preserved. Let it be known that my wife and I are avid enthusiasts of firearms and it was never my intent to violate the citizens of Somerville’s rights including my own. My greatest concern was for the well-being and health of my neighbors and friends whom reside in our town. Much information was gathered and I sought out other municipalities that are rural like Somerville. I discovered that out of the seven municipalities in Morgan County only two municipalities reserve the right to fire weapons inside their town or city limits, the Town of Somerville and the Town of Eva.
I then had our Chief of Police look to Owens Crossroad’s ordinance, due in part to his being their former police chief. Their ordinance states ¼ of a mile from any structure, roadway, business, or building. This seemed reasonable to me therefore I looked into adopting this ordinance and presented it to our Town Council in the form of a resolution. It did not pass and as people began to discuss I became more and more aware of the passion many in our town hold to being able to fire weapons within the town’s limits. As I have previously stated it was never my intent or this councils to “pull the wool over anyone’s eyes” or to slip this ordinance through without the public’s knowledge. I interpreted the Owen’s Crossroads ordinance to mean a person or persons must have a clear path of a ¼ mile to fire at their target. At our meeting some brought to our attention this was not the way it was written and it would require a person to own 126 acres in order to fire their weapon. So once again I feel this council must look for another alternative.
The State of Alabama’s law concerning this matter is 300 feet and ours as mentioned is 200 feet. If a situation should arise the State of Alabama would take precedence over the Town of Somerville. For this reason I will request at our next council meeting our existing 200 feet be extended to 300 feet to be in compliance with the State of Alabama. We then will strictly enforce this ordinance and prosecute those who do not comply.
In closing I would like to thank those who shared their opposing views in a professional manner at our last council meeting. We may never agree entirely with each other but I will always try my best to find a common ground that we can stand on. I simply ask that anyone who desires to fire a weapon within the town limits always consider the safety of yourselves as well as your neighbors. In many instances common sense is much more valuable than knowledge and nothing can take the place of experience. So if you are not aware of weapons and desire to learn seek counsel from those who do. I will leave you with this quote. “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined…” –George Washington, First Annual Address, to both House of Congress, January 8, 1790.
Mayor Darren Tucker