Ellsworth resident John Linnehan asked city councilors on Monday to let him shoot guns in his backyard. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

The Ellsworth City Council voted 5-2 on Monday to reject a request from local resident John Linnehan, an outspoken Second Amendment supporter, to shoot guns in his backyard for target practice.

The city has a ban on shooting guns within 300 yards of any house in the city’s urban compact zone. Linnehan lives within that zone on a 34-acre property on Shore Road.

Linnehan told councilors that he has built a 150 foot-long shooting range in his backyard, complete with gravel and earthen berms to help prevent any potentially stray shots from exiting the range, unless they go up in the air.

He said his family has owned the property since the late 1950s, and that he only recently learned — after a neighbor contacted police to report hearing shots fired — of the city’s ban on discharging firearms within 300 yards of a neighboring house in the urban zone. He assumed it was 300 feet, which is the state’s minimum distance for discharging a firearm near a dwelling. His nearest neighbor to the range is 385 feet away, he said.

Linnehan said he has been using the range for target practice because he wants to become proficient at shooting, in the event that he needs to defend his family from an intruder.

“Well regulated means well practiced,” Linnehan told the council, referring to the wording of the Second Amendment that allows citizens the right to keep and bear firearms and refers to a “well regulated Militia.”

“I personally have some concerns about what is going on nationally. Our country’s in trouble,” he said, referring to calls to defund the police. “I am prepared to defend my family at my house.”

Councilors Michelle Kaplan and Gene Lyons said they felt like property owners should be able to do what they want on their land, as long as it is done safely, and that with the way Linnehan’s shooting range is designed, they didn’t think it posed a safety threat.

Councilor John Phillips said he supported the ban, and pointed out that there are dozens of houses to the immediate southeast just across Linnehan’s property line.

“There’s no neighborly way to do that without disrupting a lot of other people,” Phillips said. “You haven’t convinced me this is a good idea.”

Phillips and councilors Marc Blanchette, Heather Grindle, Dale Hamilton and Robert Miller voted to deny Linnehan’s request, while Kaplan and Lyons supported it.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....