Beloit’s gun ordinance leads to confusion over legality of salutes

The Beloit City Council hoped to clear up some confusion at its Monday night meeting regarding the city’s gun ordinance and how it pertains to honoring veterans with salutes at funerals.

Beloit Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2306 honor guard commander Steve Mayfield said the confusion started when the Beloit Police Department asked the group not to fire the traditional rifle volleys at a recent funeral.

“We have fired at churches and funeral homes all across the city, and there’s never been an issue,” Mayfield said. “Honestly, we’re just trying to figure out why is it all of a sudden now an issue?”

Beloit City Council President David Luebke said it was a matter of safety.

“The location would have been a highway, and we wanted them to move it across to a park, right across from the church, so it’d be a safer location,” Luebke said. “If we’re going to have guns going off, unannounced, it may cause some public concern or undue stress.”

But Mayfield said the rifle fire is easy to recognize.

“Most people can distinguish between shots fired complain and the solemnness of military funeral honors with the firing of the rifles,” he said.

City ordinance 15.07, regarding use of firearms and weapons, states, “No person shall fire or discharge any firearm or air gun within the City, except a police officer in the lawful discharge of his duty, provided this subsection shall not apply to the target practice of the regular club, or any shooting gallery conducted within the permission of the Police Department.”

Police Chief David Zibolski said gun salutes are allowed and welcomed in cemeteries, but he must approve them at any other location.

Luebke said that information has been misunderstood.

“Some people interpreted it as a ban and put this on social media, and this is not true,” Luebke said. “The right locations…apart from the cemeteries, can best be determined by our police chief.”

Mayfield said he has no problem letting the police know when the honor guard will be firing.

“We’re not here to cause conflict or anything like that,” he said. “We’re just asking that you (the City Council) allow us to perform this ceremony where the family may wish.”

Mayfield said it’s only right to honor the heroes who fought for this country.

“The veteran deserves a proper send-off,” he said. “And the way you do that is with the firing of the rifle volleys, the playing of ‘Taps’ and the presentation of the American flag to the family.”

Mayfield said he and other veterans planned to speak during the Beloit City Council’s public comment portion of its meeting at 7 p.m. Zibolski said he would also be at the meeting to speak with veterans and funeral home directors and work to make sure everyone is on the same page.