Weapons rules shot down

Tougher restrictions for weapons have missed their target.

A majority of Vernon council Monday shot down proposed changes to the firearms bylaw that would have included references to bows and aerosol irritants like bear and dog spray.

“Baseball bat and knives can be used as weapons. We’re over-regulating,” said Mayor Wayne Lippert.

According to staff, the goal of the changes was to prevent the use of bows and aerosol sprays where safety is at risk, and not to impact legitimate uses like archery clubs, hunting in specific areas or hikers protecting themselves from wildlife.

However, a number of complaints surfaced over the proposal.

“Some people didn’t realize the city had a firearms bylaw already and some were concerned about the inclusion of bows,” said Clint Kanester, bylaw enforcement manager.

Coun. Patrick Nicol believes regulating the possession of aerosol sprays would impact legitimate uses.

“Pepper spray is generally considered necessary to defend yourself and not to create chaos,” he said of people who hike along trails where animals exist.

Kanester, though, says aerosol sprays were included after discussions with the RCMP.

“Individuals in the community are carrying it for use as a weapon. The RCMP asked us if there was something we can do in that area,” he said.

Nicol countered that a bylaw change won’t stop criminals from utilizing what ever devices they can obtain.

“They probably don’t even know what city they’re in,” he said.

Lone support for the bylaw update came from Coun. Buffy Baumbrough.

“The intent is to enable the RCMP and bylaw enforcement officers to enforce against behaviours that put public safety at risk,” she said.

“If someone uses bear spray as a weapon, we have a tool to deal with it. For anyone acting appropriately, this will never be an issue for them.”

Council will meet with the RCMP to clarify the agency’s concerns about items like aerosol  sprays.

While proposed amendments will not proceed, the city’s existing firearms bylaw remains in place.