Shell-shocked resident wants bylaw review

Ex-cop wants Central Saanich to revisit rules allowing live ammo for pest control

Central Saanich resident Gord Gummer stands in the doorway on his back patio

Central Saanich resident Gord Gummer stands in the doorway on his back patio

A Central Saanich resident is calling for a bylaw review after an incident at his home on Aug. 5 left him and his family feeling unsafe in their own backyard.

Gord Gummer, who lives on a property Jewett Place that backs onto farmland, was shocked to find a pellet from a shotgun shell had made its way inside his home.

“I am always aware now. I think about my family, the pets, my granddaughter … and what might have happened if they’d been hit by the pellet,” he said.

The night of the incident was an average Sunday night for Gummer, but as he sat watching TV something strange happened.

“It was about (9 p.m.) and my wife and I were sitting in our family room when she noticed something fly into the living room and then into the kitchen through the open french door,” he said.

“I called the Central Saanich Police that night and reported the incident and then a couple of days later I noticed a small dent in one of the kitchen cabinets where the pellet hit,” he said.

Gummer said police visited his home that night and a few more times over the following weeks. Investigators eventually determined that the buckshot, which Gummer believes came from a farm behind his home, had ricocheted off a rock in his garden and then into the house.

“My wife and I spend a lot of time in our family room and kitchen as well as on the decks in the backyard where the buckshot travelled,” said the retired longtime Victoria police inspector.

“My nine-month-old granddaughter also spends a lot of time here including the night before the incident happened, when we were having a birthday party in our backyard.”

Central Saanich police continue to investigate the incident, but declined to comment in any detail.

“All I can confirm, because the investigation is ongoing, is that the case is still under active investigation,” said Cpl. Janis Jean.

Gummer’s property backs on to fields leased by Silver Rill Corn, which holds legal permits to control deer and other wildlife on its property. That includes using blanks or live rounds in shotguns.

Permits for farmers to discharge firearms for such purposes are issued by both the police and the Fish and Wildlife bureau of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. They stipulate a minimum 100-metre distance must be kept between the point of firing and a possible residence.

Clayton Fox of Silver Rill says the operation has been practicing safe crop protection for close to 50 years and that they use ammunition specifically designed to only travel a certain distance.

“We are only allowed to use specific shells and we always have, and (they can’t) travel far distances (because) they lose velocity very quickly,” Fox said in an email to the News Review.

“The only explanation we have come up with is a manufacturers error in one of the shells we use which allowed a BB to travel three times the distance it is supposed to … followed by a fluke ricochet. I can assure anyone that we are obeying every law and safety concern, and staying in the boundaries of where we are permitted to discharge shotguns. (We) will continue to practice the use of these permits safely.”

Gummer is concerned the situation of farmers using live ammunition could become more problematic.

A deer management report recently presented to the Capital Regional District board suggested that the 100m distance be relaxed, to allow farmers protecting their crops to kill more deer.

“If you lessen that distance, you’re opening up the risk of something like this happening,” he said. “I have no problem with farmers protecting their crops and it’s something we have to be accepting of in a farming municipality like Central Saanich. (But) to use live ammo around housing, I think, is really irresponsible.”

Gummer is calling on the municipality to review the bylaw which allows farmers to protect their crops using live ammunition.

“I just want them to look at the bylaw and things like the fact that live ammunition is being used close to residences, when there are safer alternatives.”

Gummer also noted the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the municipality re-issued another permit on Aug. 20 to Silver Rill Farm allowing them to kill another quota of five deer on their property.

“I just can’t believe they would go ahead and issue another permit before the issue had been resolved,” he said. “We’ve lived here for 27 years and have had no issues with farming activities, but this incident has shaken both me and my family and I really don’t think that we should feel unsafe in our own home.”