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City Council discusses shooting in city limits


It’s illegal, but people do it. Guns get fired in city limits.

This is because the otherwise empty-looking tundra surrounding Bethel is actually within city limits. Some people shoot their handguns for target practice. Others use the makeshift shooting range near Kasayuli. And still others will fire their guns in city limits for springtime subsistence hunting, such as waterfowl or ptarmigan.

On April 8, city council members discussed changes to the Bethel Municipal Code’s Section 9, “Public Peace, Morals and Welfare,” which includes the use of weapons.

While the amendment merely cleans up the section about the use of weapons, Vice Mayor Rick Robb said he was concerned about responsibly using guns for traditional subsistence hunting on the tundra. Councilmember Leif Albertson agreed, saying he appreciated being able to walk out of town to hunt. (Currently, firing a gun in city limits is not legal at all, unless it’s for self protection.)

Councilmember Mark Springer and Mayor Joe Klejka both used examples of people having to duck under whizzing stray bullets. Springer said that in some cases, the people who were firing their guns were perfectly sober and responsible, and merely thought no one was out on the tundra.

Mayor Klejka also said that police so far do not usually cite responsible use of guns on the tundra and that it is unlikely they will in the future.

“I can’t follow that logic,” Robb said. “I don’t think that it’s a good idea to say, ‘Well, we’re going to make this a law, but we’re not going to really enforce this.’ ”

“All I’m concerned about is people are out there shooting recklessly. I don’t really want people shooting anything within city limits,” Klejka responded.

City Councilmembers also proposed amendments that would clean up language concerning curfew, restrict underage kids from attending rated R movies at the new movie theater, and restrict people from selling dangerous fireworks without an appropriate license. Other amendments strike out public drinking, which the state looks at as a disease and not a crime, and begging, which Bethel Police has not cited anyone for in at least five or six years.

The legislation will be picked up again at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, April 22.


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