Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – It’s late at night in McKinleyville, dogs are snoring and people are tucked in for the evening, and then – BOOM! – an ear-splitting explosion shatters the peace.
These types of mysterious, nocturnal booms were described as commonplace at the Aug. 28 meeting of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC), which discussed solutions to what McKMAC member Maya Conrad called “loud things going boom in the night.”
“It seems like we have an inordinate amount of discharges, whether it’s guns or fireworks or loud booms,” Conrad said. “It gets a little exhausting and nerve-racking when it’s late at night... I wish there was a way we could remedy the situation.”
The committee discussed different explanations for the booms. In some cases, it may be people firing guns. It could be illegal fireworks. Or it could be people killing gophers at night by dumping fuel into gopher holes and igniting them.
The committee discussed gunfire, and whether there is a need for an ordinance prohibiting the discharge of firearms in town.
The committee had received a letter from McKinleyville resident Ken Miller asking that it consider an ordinance prohibiting shooting, with “reasonable exceptions,” within the boundaries of the McKinleyville Community Services District.
Although the McKMAC has no authority to pass ordinances, it can make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.
The first question that came up, though, is whether such an ordinance is necessary given existing laws.
Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Miller told that committee that state law already bans the negligent discharge of a firearm.
“The bottom line is that if someone discharges a firearm within the confines of any neighborhood here in McKinleyville, there is no way they can be doing that in a safe manner,” Miller said.
The negligent discharge of a firearm can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on whether someone is injured, he said, adding that there are six different sections of the penal code that address the issue.,
“We have a lot of different options available to us,” Miller said.
It was also noted that there are exceptions that allow firearms to be discharged for self defense or protection of livestock.
“There are a lot of legitimate reasons why people would hear gunfire that are not promiscuous shooting,” said McKMAC member Dennis Mayo.
Miller said that when people hear explosions or gunfire, they should call the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies, he said, will do their best to respond.
But, Miller said, the offenders are often gone when deputies arrive. And sometimes callers don’t know where the sound actually came from.
“We’re chasing our tails out there,” Miller said.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone suggested that the county create an ordinance to address the issue of shooting firearms in McKinleyville.
“I believe it’s a step forward,” said Madrone, who read to the committee an email from Sheriff Billy Honsal indicating that the county’s top law enforcement officer would support such an ordinance.
In an interview, Honsal said he would support an ordinance if the community wanted it, but there were already plenty of tools for law enforcement to use.
The committee discussed the issue, but did not take any action or make recommendations.