Ramsey expects to revise its 36-year-old firearms ordinance so more people can legally carry or shoot guns in the city of 22,500 people.
Police Chief Jim Way said he has drafted changes at the request of City Council members who thought it was too restrictive. Way expects the council to approve the changes, which were discussed at a work session this week, by July.
"We are trying to allow a little more hunting in Ramsey if people choose to," said Mayor Bob Ramsey, who initially raised concerns about the ordinance in a council strategic planning session. "We are allowing people, within reason, to be able to hunt and target shoot safely in the city. ...We wanted to make perfectly clear what is allowed or not allowed."
He said residents in the northern part of Ramsey have large lots, such as his 11.5-acre property, where target shooting and some hunting can be done. A proposed new section on target shooting would "let people like me do some recreational shooting and set up a private range," Ramsey said. "If my wife and I want to go out and shoot, we can make a berm and the chief will decide if it's safe enough for a permit."
The old ordinance prohibited anyone but police officers or hunters using shotguns with light shot to fire guns in the city. The proposed revisions reflect changes in state law that allow handgun possession by law-abiding citizens who obtain a state gun permit, Way said. Anyone discharging a firearm also would need a city permit issued by the police chief, he said.
The state permit to carry law, passed in 2003, directs county sheriffs to issue handgun permits to people at least 21 years old who have a clean record, no mental illness and proper gun safety training.
Ramsey's revised ordinance would forbid shooting within 1,500 feet of any building, park or playground, unless a city permit is obtained. Hunters, including archers, will continue to need permits.
Asked whether he has any concerns about the changes, Way said, "I just want to make sure we have control, so there's no shooting of guns close to neighbors." He said he's working on language that would allow .22-caliber rifles to be used to shoot nuisance animals, such as woodchucks.
Mayor Ramsey said he doesn't want to allow squirrel hunting with a .22-caliber rifle because the slugs carry up to a mile.
The chief said he wouldn't issue permits for automatic rifles or machine guns. "That would be a tough sell" for the permit applicant, he said.
The ordinance also cleared up a past enforcement problem by providing a definition of a firearm, Way said. The definition, taken from state law, is: "a gun that discharges shot or projectile by means of an explosive, a gas or compressed air."
That covers BB guns, pellet guns, air guns and similar devices, Way said. "It cleans it up for officers. When they tell people what they can do, they can pull out a copy of the ordinance," he said. He said police usually warn residents before writing citations.
Way said he has issued permits for deer hunting in the past two years to reduce their numbers because the city has more than 50 deer-vehicle accidents a year.
The revised ordinance doesn't change a provision allowing a homeowner to fire a gun "in the lawful defense of person, family or property."
Jim Adams • 612-673-7658