When the city of Hamilton proposed to review its firearms bylaw after 11 years, it seemed to be a prudent response to the municipality’s ongoing residential growth.
But some rural residents, who were egged on by admittedly over-the-top comments on blogs and websites, believed the city was banning their guns and removing their right to hunt. The belief among residents was so strong that at two public meetings held last year, councillors were overwhelmed by the response as people stood shoulder-to-shoulder in rooms loudly voicing against any attempt to “ban their guns.”
Since those meetings, rural councillors, especially Brenda Johnson, have been adamant the city has no intention of taking away their firearms.
However, a review of the firearm discharge bylaw and subsequent changes to the boundaries on where weapons can be used is needed in a quickly expanding urban environment.
City officials have stated the reason behind the review is to make sure people using guns are doing so in the proper place. In some cases, because of housing growth, firing guns, or shooting a cross bow could put people in danger. For instance, in Mount Hope, in half the town a gun can be discharged, but not in the other half. In the area of Upper Centennial and Rymal Road, firing guns in upper Stoney Creek is banned, but not in Glanbrook, on the other side of Rymal Road in an area with exploding residential and commercial growth.
Of course exemptions will be made to farmers, gun clubs and for special events.
In addition, officials are looking at changing “firearms” to “weapons” discharge to incorporate bows, crossbows, BB guns and air rifles into the bylaw.
In an attempt to calm rural fears down, city officials have created a stakeholders group that includes Hamilton Police and Hamilton Conservation Authority representatives. And up to four public meeting will be held starting this March to hear from the public about the proposed changes.
The public meetings will hopefully establish better communications on both sides on what is an emotional issue. The use of firearms by farmers is a necessity for their livelihood, while hunting is a legal right for people, provided they are in the proper area to discharge their weapons. As politicians have stated most hunters are responsible with how they use their firearms.
But the bylaw is designed to prevent those that don’t use their firearms responsibly from making a catastrophic mistake, while also protecting an unsuspecting public from a misused weapon.