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As in city limits, no shooting firearms within urban growth boundary

Are there any rules as to discharging a firearm in a rural residential area of Jackson County? In my neighborhood where it's more or less a subdivision, it seems to happen a lot lately.

— A.E. Walker, Central Point

 According to patrol Sgt. Jeremy Whipple of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, whether firing a weapon on Jackson County rural property is a crime hinges on its proximity to city limits.

"It depends on if it's just outside an urban growth boundary," Whipple said.

Although your question seems to concern property just outside Central Point, he also cleared up the question in relation to the unincorporated area of White City.

"White City is considered an urban growth boundary," he said.

Within an urban growth boundary, the law is the same as it is inside the limits of Central Point, Medford, Ashland, or any other Oregon city.  Discharging a weapon is a violation of Oregon Revised Statute 166.220, Unlawful Use of a Weapon, a class C felony.

In the case of urban growth boundaries outside a municipal police department's jurisdiction, the sheriff's department enforces the law.  But Whipple pointed out that rural residents not near city limits are free to shoot weapons on their property.

“As long as it's within a reasonable manner and fired in a safe direction, it’s not against the law,” he said. "There is no law that they're violating."

Whipple said it can be a tough situation for deputies because two types of people are typically drawn to rural areas — some who want the freedom to use their property with fewer restrictions so they can, as examples, ride their dirt bikes or shoot weapons on their land, while others moved to rural areas seeking peace and quiet.

“It’s an unfortunate thing that we have to deal with and explain to both sides,” he said. "They’re kind of taken aback that they’re not violating the law, and we’re not responding to it.”

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.