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Coq. shoots down complete ban on firearm discharge

You can still fire a gun in certain parts of northeast Coquitlam - but not in neighbouring Port Coquitlam.

You can still fire a gun in certain parts of northeast Coquitlam - but not in neighbouring Port Coquitlam.

This week, Coquitlam's council-in-committee narrowly shot down a motion to ban firearms discharge, with some arguing the city would be acting on emotions and not reason.

City staff gave the committee three options on Monday for the new firearms and bow discharge bylaw, which has received three readings but not final approval: leave the firearms regulations as is; impose a complete ban; or allow no use of firearms on agricultural land.

The new bylaw came about after reports last June of a bear being shot by a hunter using a bow and arrow on a farm and the wounded animal wandering into a public park; the bear later died.

Verne Kucy, Coquitlam's acting manager of environmental services, said there have been five bow hunting incidents in the past six years where wildlife have been killed by arrows, namely on:

July 6, 2006: a deer and bear found on David Avenue;

Dec. 1, 2010: a deer found on Pollard Street;

June 9, 2011: a bear found on Oliver Road;

and Dec. 2, 2011: a deer found at David Avenue and Johnson Street.

As part of tightening regulations around bows and arrows, city staff also suggested including a ban on firearms.

Currently, less than 4% of Coquitlam is open to firearm discharge - much of it around farmland near the eastern boundary of the city, Goose Island, the foreshore beside the Pitt-Addington Marsh Wildlife Area and the waters of the Pitt River.

Kucy said the bylaw would not apply to the city's two gun clubs.

Mayor Richard Stewart said he wasn't comfortable lumping the firearms policy with the bow and arrow regulations. And he was one of four council members to oppose Coun. Mae Reid's motion for a complete ban of firearm discharge, which - with Coun. Craig Hodge absent from the meeting - was defeated in a tie vote following nearly an hour of debate.

"I wish that we could simply have done a bow hunting bylaw for all of Coquitlam and left our current or old firearms bylaw be as it is," Coun. Linda Reimer said. "We had numerous emails, numerous telephone calls. In fact, I don't think there's ever been an issue, since I've been on council, where we've received so much feedback from the public."

In January, the committee heard from a Coquitlam hunter who warned the local Canada goose population at city parks would swell if a firearms ban was imposed.

Newly elected Coun. Terry O'Neill said council is now in "damage control."

"What a mess that council has blundered into that started before I was on council and has continued, driven by emotion and no facts," O'Neill said. "And the facts have been coming out slowly but surely and, as we learn more, we learn that we shouldn't go into these sorts of things without knowing what we're getting into."

His view was echoed by Coun. Lou Sekora, who called the proposed firearms and cosmetic pesticide prohibitions "unenforceable" and "fluffy."

A terse Coun. Selina Robinson said she supports both bylaws "because I think it's what people want and it's my job to represent them. Some may see them as emotional topics but people are emotional. People have very strong feelings about the community they live in."

Robinson - along with councillors Reid, Neal Nicholson and Brent Asmundson - countered northeast Coquitlam is growing and the shoreline will be used more frequently by nature lovers who will be uncomfortable with guns firing in the area (the city plans to add 20,000 more residents to Burke Mountain over the next 20 years).

"To have this kind of activity going on where we are increasing our population... we're just asking for trouble," Reid said. "It is our duty. Safety is one of the core services that city council is supposed to pay attention to."

Meanwhile, environment officials with both the federal and provincial governments are expected to comment on the proposed bylaw before a final city staff report is presented to council in May for fourth and final reading, Kucy said Tuesday.

Even if the changes are adopted in their current form, a resident would still be allowed to fire a weapon in the municipality under the Livestock Act if they are protecting livestock from attack.

Port Coquitlam has banned firearms discharge within its city boundaries.

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