PAYETTE — Facing numerous, continuing complaints from neighbors of Payette resident Phil Davis as voiced during recent City Council meetings, city officials are finding that the only way to keep the peace was to act on those complaints. Their concerns stem from residents complaints about use of an air pellet gun by Davis to control squirrels on his property.

The Payette City Council addressed the matter during its regular meeting on July 6, for which Police Chief John Plaza was present. The council discussed enforceability of Payette City Code 9.62.030, as part of the meeting’s agenda.

Councilor Craig Jensen said he brought the matter before the council as he continue to hear concerns from Davis’ neighbors.

“I thought that it was time for us to look at this ordinance and see if we really want to allow people to use firearms or air guns in the city limits, shooting at anything,” said Jensen. “In a subdivision, I just don’t think that should be allowed. That’s just looking for an accident waiting to happen … I’m afraid one of these times we’re going to have some kid’s eye shot out or something else.”

City code allows residents age 21 and older with liability insurance to apply for a permit to use air guns to remove birds or animals when said applicants demonstrate such creatures threaten property or food sources. Jensen said he didn’t have complaints about such uses outside of city limits.

“I don’t have any disagreement with that,” said Mayor Jeff Williams. “I was probably the only person who was here when the gentleman came in saying squirrels were destroying his garden and produce and all that kind of stuff. I think that’s where this originated.”

Plaza confirmed to Williams that statement was true.

“Listening to these people that came in here … I think he’s either abusing it or he’s not safe with a gun,” said Councilor Ray Wickersham. “We’ve had enough people coming in here complaining about him and we have to at least, I think, respond in some way.”

Councilor Daniel Lopez said he felt enforceability of existing code needed improvement, rather than the code itself. According to Plaza, there were 20 such permits issued within city limits as of July 6.

“Getting rid of an ordinance just because we can’t enforce [it] doesn’t seem like the right move,” said Lopez.

Councilor Mike Kee lamented that the council didn’t previously send Davis a letter with a list of the complaints it has received to date. He said he would have liked to see the council ask Davis to “stop shooting squirrels until we can get it figured out.”

When invited to speak during citizens’ comments at this meeting, resident Terrie Shurte questioned how the city documents such complaints as received by emergency dispatch services. Plaza told Shurte that it is not necessary for the department to maintain its own log, as such calls are logged by dispatchers.

Shurte also stated that the ballistics of an air pellet make it deadly at a range of 40 yards.

Data released in an article in July of 2019 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information backs up this statement, indicating that eye injuries are the most common, but that death can be caused from some wounds, including those to the head, neck and eyes.

Resident Elsa Johnson argued in favor of changing city code to protect residents from being hit by pellets.

“The Code that we have does not have any provisions there for the safety of the neighbors around; I’m not the only one person that has been in this position … Other people have been sitting outside, with their children, and this has happened to other people. This is not safe, this is a safety issue.”

In an email on July 9, Plaza told the newspaper that he had met with Davis on July 7. He said that Davis had voluntarily agreed to stop shooting his air gun on his property.

“He denies shooting at any people, but he does not want anyone to be scared,” wrote Plaza. “I also revoked his air gun permit. I consider the matter closed.”

Multiple comment requests to Davis were unreturned as of press time.

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