OK to discharge firearms in Pennsylvania yards?
April 30, 2007 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Is it legal for my neighbors to shoot in their yard, in a suburb of Philadelphia?

I'm living in Perkiomen Township, about 30 miles outside of Philadelphia. This evening (while my daughter was playing outside) it sounded like my neighbors were shooting at something, presumably in their yard. We live near a creek, and apparently it's legal to shoot (hunt) near a creek...

Does anyone know anything about where it's legal to discharge a firearm in Pennsylvania, or where I can find more information about firearm discharge (not ownership)? I'd like to know it's illegal before I call the cops...and google fails me.
posted by leahwrenn to Law & Government (14 answers total)
Are they within 150 yards of a dwelling?
posted by caddis at 3:13 PM on April 30, 2007

Call your township or sherriff and ask. Or call the non-emergency number for the police. If you don't want to be identified, call from a pay phone. You can also try reading through state hunting laws.
posted by acoutu at 3:15 PM on April 30, 2007

Check with the local government (does the township have an office?) for those laws/ordinances. A more diplomatic solution is talking to your neighbors about the problem before you resort to calling the cops.
posted by deinemutti at 3:19 PM on April 30, 2007

Are they within 150 yards of a dwelling?

"it is unlawful for any person, other than the lawful occupant"
posted by smackfu at 3:24 PM on April 30, 2007

right, if they are within 150 yds of leahwrenn's home they surely do not have his or her permission
posted by caddis at 3:31 PM on April 30, 2007

Have you considered talking to the neighbors or have you dismissed them as 'gun toting redneck nutjobs?'

It's a legitimate question.

My suggestion is to talk to them first. If this doesn't work out well, politely call the local police department and express your concern.

What is your patricular concern, anyway? It's entirely possible that your neighbors are responsible firearm owners and are not doing anything unsafe.
posted by drstein at 3:31 PM on April 30, 2007

The concern was if it was legal or not.

Calling the non emergency police line will either get you a direct answer, or a referal to who you need to ask.
posted by edgeways at 3:37 PM on April 30, 2007

Yes, calling the police is the best bet. They will, in addition to knowing the state game laws on this, know about local ordinances. Most communities have an ordinance banning the discharge of firearms within city limits, although more rural communities are less likely to have such an ordinance.
posted by caddis at 3:48 PM on April 30, 2007

If they are indeed responsible gun owners, they will not be discharging firearms within a populated, residential area.

Without corroboration it may be hard for the officials to establish wrongdoing; when you call the local police and make a report, document your contact.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:15 PM on April 30, 2007

drstein asked Have you considered talking to the neighbors or have you dismissed them as 'gun toting redneck nutjobs?'
What is your patricular concern, anyway? It's entirely possible that your neighbors are responsible firearm owners and are not doing anything unsafe.

My husband, who grew up in Alaska and owns guns, shoots guns, and is careful about gun safety, is actually the one who raised the initial concern. He, and I, are concerned about firearm discharge in a residential neighborhood---bullets can travel quite far, even if you were shooting at something on your own land, and I'd rather my daughter is able to play outside safely. Discharging firearms in a residential neighborhood is not the act of a 'respnsible gun owner' (but it may be legal, which was what I was asking about).

(In addition, these neighbors have not exhibited safe behaviors in the past (such as shooting fireworks---illegally---during a drought which landed in our yard), but that's really not the point; in many municipalities it is not legal to discharge firearms, and it's not clear why by asking the question I must therefore think guns are eeevil.)
posted by leahwrenn at 5:26 PM on April 30, 2007

If I recall correctly, in order to legally shoot on your property in residentially occupied areas in PA you need to have a dirt berm build to certain specifications and then you can only shoot into it. I wish I could give you more details, but I'm just regurgitating what I remember the cop telling my parents when a bullet went through the window of our house.

Might be worth looking into.
posted by Loto at 5:49 PM on April 30, 2007

If you're in a residential area, call the police the next time you hear gunshots. It's the responsible thing to do.

Let the police sort it out.
posted by HuronBob at 5:49 PM on April 30, 2007

I'll second what HuronBob said. As soon as they start busting off a few caps, dial 911 and tell them in a panic-stricken voice that someone is shooting outside your home. If you wait until after the event and call the non-emergency number then by the time law enforcement gets there, the event may be over and its just your word against theirs. Just tell the cops you heard gunfire and didn't know where it was coming from.

BTW, I love the comment further up the page about the possibility of the neighbors being 'gun toting redneck nutjobs'
posted by worker_bee at 5:13 AM on May 1, 2007

worker_bee, once upon a time while looking at some real estae in the country (read: on a dead end road in the middle of nowhere) I looked at a house that had some appeal. Down the hill a bit was a setup that looked, more or less, like two mobile homes that had kind of grown together. Not the most atractive thing in the world but I would only have to see it on the drive in.

At that time there was about to be a vote on whether Missouri would have a concealed carry law. I wouldn't have been put off by a bumper sticker or your standard 2 ft. by 3 ft."Vote Yes on 3!" lawn sign. What alarmed me was that they had a homemade billboard, roughly 8x16 or maybe 8x24 feet in their lawn...

I think 'gun toting redneck nutjobs' would sum it up real well.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:08 PM on May 1, 2007

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