Plan Commission recommends updating penalties for illegal discharge of firearms
Firing a gun in certain parts of the Town of Belgium has been illegal for decades.
Those who fail to adhere to the ordinance may be subject to a more strict fine.
The only problem has been enforcement, officials said at the Aug. 19 Plan Commission meeting.
“There have been a few incidents down by the lake where we’ve had neighbors not agreeing on the discharge of firearms,” Town Chairman Tom Winker said. “As neighbors, we need to try to get along.”
The ordinance prohibits carrying or discharging a firearm in the areas east of Sauk Trail Road between Pebble Beach Road and Highway D and areas not zoned agriculture east of Sunny Ridge Road and east of Lake Church Road between Sandy Beach Road and Highway P.
The ordinance was first enacted in 1988 and updated in 1994. A revision was recommended to the Town Board last week that would comply with Wisconsin concealed carry laws.
Firearms also may not be fired within 100 yards of a home, according to the ordinance.
Those who violate the law are subject to a fine of up to $500 for a second offense.
“We decided to modernize the ordinance and get rid of some things that don’t apply any more,” said commissioner Matt Fuller, who was tasked with updating the law.
The problem will be enforcing the law, he said, because the town does not want to pay the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department to enforce it.
“We would have to contract the county for a certain number of hours and that was going to be pretty expensive,” Fuller said. “There have been very few incidents over the last 20 years since this was looked at.”
The law previously included fines of up to $200 and up to 30 days in jail if the violator did not pay restitution.
Janice Poss, 6338 Sauk Trail Rd., said she appreciates the culture of hunting, but is disappointed in the changes.
“I’m right in a shooting gallery,” she said. “I have people walking down the north edge of my property with guns. I don’t know who they are or why they’re there.”
Winker said it’s important to consider what the majority of the town wants.
“I’m not a hunter, but I feel it’s important to have hunting in the Town of Belgium,” he said. “I don’t want my cars or semi truck to be smashed up by deer.”
Commissioner Charlie Parks said because the sheriff’s department doesn’t enforce the ordinance, prosecuting violators will be difficult.
He said a letter will be sent to those breaking the law the first time, with the town suing the individual on a second offense.
“It would involve witnesses and probably a town official to come and talk with whoever was involved,” he said. “We have to do it the long way.”
Parks noted that the ordinance should include court costs for fines assessed.
Town resident Mike Kavanagh, 6450 Sauk Trail Rd., said the ordinance should include trespassing, but commissioners said that is a county issue.
“Trespassing is prosecuted separately by the county,” Parks said. “If somebody is on your land without permission, you should contact the sheriff’s department.”
Several residents spoke in favor of the changes, saying it’s often one or two hunters that cause problems.
“I appreciate your efforts,” a resident said. “I think the resolution makes a lot of sense. I appreciate you protecting my rights as a land owner to enjoy what the law will allow me to enjoy.”
The Town Board is expected to act on the proposed changes on Sept. 8.