The Howard County Council unanimously approved a bill last night intended to help avoid hunting accidents like the December incident in which an errant slug aimed at a deer shattered a Clarksville day care center front window and frightened the children and teachers inside.
The 5-0 vote on a much-debated, heavily amended bill submitted by County Executive Ken Ulman makes hunters liable for a civil fine of up to $1,000 - the most allowed under law - if they ignore safety rules and damage private property with a gunshot.
The deer hunter in the December incident escaped prosecution because state law requires proof of willful intent.
The final bill was "significantly watered down in a way I'm disappointed about," said Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, a Kings Contrivance Democrat who pushed for stricter rules in the original version.
Ulman's bill sought a doubling of the 150-yard shooting safety zone and would have prohibited hunting on less than 10 acres. The final bill removed those limits but included the fine and a requirement that hunters not fire unless a safe backstop is visible.
All five council members agreed after a long discussion that the final bill, while not perfect, improves chances for public safety.
Councilman Greg Fox, a Fulton Republican, praised the bill for putting "more accountability, responsibility and liability on hunters," without damaging their ability to hunt.