‘We had bullets in a playroom’: Johnson County sheriff makes case for new gun safety rule

Kansas News

OLATHE, Kan. — The Johnson County Board of Commissioners will soon consider a resolution that affects how a person shoots guns in the unincorporated portion of the county. 

On Thursday, Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden presented to the commission in support of a resolution to regulate the shooting of guns that results in bullets crossing property lines.

The resolution would make it a county code violation if a gun is discharged and the bullet leaves the shooter’s property and enters a neighboring property without permission.

From August 2, 2019 to June 13, 2021 the sheriff’s department received 22 complaints at 19 different addresses of stray bullets hitting people’s homes, cars and farming equipment. 

On May 31, 2020, Matt and Katie Keys’ home was struck by four bullets. Hayden said three of the four bullets hit outside the home; the fourth bullet hit a window into a playroom. 

Hayden said the bullets that struck the Keys’ home traveled approximately 500 yards from an individual aiming to shoot a brush pile. 

“We had bullets in a playroom of some of our citizens. It’s just not appropriate,” Hayden said. 

Hayden said the department hasn’t been able to determine the intent behind the stray bullets, making it difficult to prosecute. 

In an effort to educate the community on gun safety, the sheriff’s department began distributing a brochure to county residents.

“We made up a brochure, and we took it out to people. When we started this education, things actually got worse. We actually got more incidents of people shooting in the county,” Hayden said. 

“We’re not talking about property rights. We are not talking about gun issues. We are talking about other people’s property boundaries and what happens when something leaves the property,” Assistant County Manager Joseph Connor said.  

If approved, the resolution would make violating the code a civil offense. Peggy Trent, chief legal counsel for the county, said the violation would incur a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $1,000. 

 “If in fact the person does it a subsequent time after being convicted, charged and convicted with this particular code violation, then that could change the intent. Then becoming a criminal violation potentially and then being charged under the criminal statute because they knew that their actions in firing in that regard. That’s why that fine was landed on, as a deterrent,” Trent said. 

County leaders said the person discharging the gun would not be in violation of the code if the gun is shot in self-defense. All investigations of this code violation would be handled by the Johnson County sheriff. 

Cities have the ability to limit the discharge of firearms within city limits, but counties don’t. Trent said the proposed change would not impact hunting practices in Johnson County. 

County commissioners will hear public feedback and vote on the resolution at the next meeting on Thursday, Aug. 26 at 9:30 a.m.

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