County seeks to stop stray bullets from flying through neighborhood

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Residents of the Northbrook Addition say they live in fear, in line of sight behind where their neighbors on large county lots adjacent to the development shoot targets with makeshift berms for safety nets. (October 19, 2021)

The Wichita Eagle

Residents of a Derby housing estate say they are tired of dodging bullets fired by neighbors in unincorporated Sedgwick County.

They could get relief Thursday at a special meeting where county commissioners are expected to consider a resolution that would violate it, with a $ 500 fine for firing a bullet that runs away from the shooter’s property.

Residents of the Northbrook Addition say they live in fear, in the line of fire behind where their neighbors on the large county lots adjacent to the development shoot targets with makeshift berms for safety nets.

“They shot automatic over there,” said Dennis Pagano, a former deputy county sheriff. The ricochets and shots that miss the recreational shooting berms fly through the trees and “just buzz around the people walking.”

A police report was filed when a bullet from the activity apparently hit a neighbor’s fence.

“When you head into a housing extension full of people, where is the common sense? Pagano said. “I know there are a lot of terrified people here and my wife is one of them.”

The situation has caught the attention of Commissioner Jim Howell, who is proposing the resolution that will require shooters to confine their flying pellet to their own property.

This is an unusual stance for Howell, a strong supporter of gun owners’ rights who has spearheaded several bills as a lawmaker in Topeka to lift state restrictions on carrying firearms. and prohibit local jurisdictions from regulating firearms.

“Normally when the sheriff goes to a place like this where there is an argument between neighbors about people shooting guns, most of the time the sheriff talks to them and says, ‘Look, what you are doing is not safe and you ”I have to do things differently because people feel threatened and things are a little dangerous here.

“Most of the time it works. In this particular case, they’re people saying, “We’ve been shooting west for decades and we’re not going to change. We have always been doing this. We love our guns and we will continue to shoot as we have done forever.

“One guy even had a video when a bird shot landed on his house and he was just standing there,” Howell said.

Neighbors say the incident was one-time and was resolved fairly easily when law enforcement contacted the neighbor who was shooting at clay targets, who agreed not to fire at aerial targets again.

But the rifle and pistol fire continued, they say.

“Really, these are some very pitiful safety nets that they have,” said neighbor Max Seaman. “Some of them are not even chest height. On more than one occasion it got out of hand, you can hear them hitting the trees behind our houses. . . People are very concerned about their pets, their children, and their homes. “

Derby Police have gathered reports, but there is little they can do because it is outside of their jurisdiction, Seaman said.

Howell said he had been to the neighborhood and that “the bottom line is there really is no safe direction for them to fire from these houses, even though it’s in (county) unincorporated “.

He said the resolution the county would consider on Thursday was almost identical to the one passed by Johnson County in the face of the same issue.

The only difference is an exception for hunting, as unlike the more developed Johnson County, Sedgwick County still has many areas of open land still used by hunters. Thus, the balls can go to neighboring plots “as long as safe hunting practices are observed”.

Other exceptions include law enforcement, gunshots fired legally in defense of life, and permission from the owner of the place where the bullets fall.

Pagano said he was not sure the $ 500 fine would be enough to change behavior.

“It has been going on since we got here two years ago,” he said. “If that changes, I’ll be really surprised.

“I think these guys are very numb,” Pagano added. “I don’t think they understand what a bullet can do. All they know is shoot, shoot, shoot and have fun, but it doesn’t work that way when you’re so close to a neighborhood. “

He once said, as the bullets were flying, “I screamed over there and said ‘You have to stop shooting before you kill someone,’” Pagano said. “Forgive my French, someone told me to kiss my a–.”

This story was originally published October 19, 2021 2:26 pm.

Senior reporter Dion Lefler has provided award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion is originally from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other newspapers. He is a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries for The United Methodist Church, and plays second base for the Old Cowtown baseball team.


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