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12:39 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Hunting within city limits might soon be illegal

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PRESCOTT, Arizona - With an existing state law already on the books regarding hunting with a firearm near a home, and another in the works for bow hunting, some Prescott City Council members questioned the need this week for an additional city law.

At Tuesday's City Council workshop, City Attorney Jon Paladini explained that his department had drafted an ordinance at the request of council members Charlie Arnold and Jean Wilcox.

Arnold pointed out that he had been approached by local residents who were concerned about hunting taking place near their homes. The draft ordinance was an attempt to "look at preventing hunting in our neighborhoods," he added.

Under the ordinance, the city would prohibit the discharge of firearms within a quarter-mile of occupied structures or city parks (with certain exceptions), or bow and arrows or crossbows for hunting within a quarter-mile of homes or picnic areas, campgrounds, boat ramps, shooting ranges, golf courses and occupied structures.

Before the council members weighed in Tuesday, they heard from Tom Finley, the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Regional Supervisor for Region 3 (the northwest portion of Arizona).

Finley noted that state law already prohibits hunting with a firearm within one-quarter-mile of an occupied dwelling, and the department was contemplating a similar prohibition for bow hunting - a restriction that could be in effect by hunting season this fall.

He added that when Game and Fish learned that Prescott was considering such a law, the department consulted the Arizona Attorney General's office.

"We did get an opinion that some other state legislation precluded the city from pursuing an ordinance," Finley said of the plan for the city prohibition.

That raised concerns from at least two council members, who maintained that a city ordinance would be redundant.

"I don't think it's necessarily for the city to try to do another government agency's job," said Councilman Jim Lamerson, adding that it was the city's job to "enforce those (state) laws, not come up with our own."

Councilman Greg Lazzell expressed similar views. "It seems pretty simple," he said. "I agree with Jim - let the state do its job."

But others said the law would help to emphasize the prohibition.

"We would have to mirror the state's language," Arnold said. "And so we're just codifying it on our end."

He added that the original intent was to deal with bow hunting within a quarter-mile of homes. "I've got no problem if we want to tweak the ordinance, but I do think there's a value to us codifying for the city what the state regulations are going to be," Arnold said.

Wilcox noted that the ordinance also deals with dangerous activities in city parks. "This ordinance would give our police department the authority to cite and enforce potentially dangerous activities," she said, referring to activities such as BB guns.

"I do support it," Wilcox said of the ordinance. "We need some control on what goes on in city parks."

That led Lazzell to ask Police Chief Jerald Monahan whether city police officers could cite people for shooting BB guns, pellet guns, or slingshots in city parks. Monahan responded that officers could write a citation in such a case for recklessness, a class 1 misdemeanor.

Even so, Arnold pointed out that a recklessness charge could be somewhat subjective.

Tuesday's agenda item was for discussion only. Arnold asked that the draft ordinance be brought back for a vote, and the council agreed that it would appear on a future agenda.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks