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KCC looks to clarify gun discharge laws

Posted: February 28, 2013 5:43 p.m.
Updated: March 1, 2013 5:00 a.m.
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...Councilman Jones explained that Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews wanted the item discussed.

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Kershaw County Council explored the possibility of implementing a gun discharge ordinance Tuesday after hearing complaints from local residents and law enforcement officials. But before council even began discussing the possible change, Councilman Stephen Smoak asked county staff why the item was actually placed on Tuesday’s agenda.

Councilman Jimmy Jones interjected with his own explanation as County Attorney Ken DuBose began to respond. Jones said Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews requested the item be discussed.

DuBose continued after Jones’ explanation, noting that any proposed ordinance would not be related to the transfer, ownership, carrying, possession, or transportation of guns and ammunition or any components or combinations of firearms.

Matthews then spoke, providing an outline of the issue and explaining that his office has received numerous complaints and concerns about the firing of guns in or near residential areas. He noted that there is currently no ordinance restricting the discharging of firearms in unincorporated areas of the county. Matthews specifically pointed to one recent incident where a county resident was firing a gun in the air as cars traveled past his home.

“In this particular instance, a man thought people were speeding up and down his street,” Matthews said. “His solution, instead of calling us, was to take his weapon outside and shoot it up in the air as cars went by.”

After deputies confronted him, Matthews said, he stopped, but then began to shoot in the ground, believing his actions wouldn’t hurt anyone nearby.

“We still have no recourse against this man,” Matthews said.

Former County Councilman Max Ford also spoke about the issue during the public comments period of Tuesday’s meeting. Ford expressed his concerns about the discharging of guns in residential areas, especially around Lake Wateree.

Councilman C.R. Miles said as details of a possible ordinance are hashed out, council should consider any proposal’s impact on rural areas in the county, particularly noting self protection rights and threats from wildlife. Councilman Tom Gardner agreed, but noted it could be difficult to officially determine what areas should be considered rural. DuBose said designating rural areas and determining the variances of a possible ordinance could be based on the density of an area, but measuring the data to draw such a distinction could be an extensive and costly process.

Smoak said he felt a proposed ordinance would be preliminary at this point and that council could reopen the topic at a later date.

Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter suggested council could discuss the issue during a work session, which would allow an extended discussion with “staff and outside experts.”

Also Tuesday, Matthews requested council consider a possible tax increase to improve local law enforcement efforts. Matthews said while a tax increase would be “tough to swallow,” the sheriff’s office is currently losing its capacity to provide basic law enforcement services without additional funding.

“My immediate need is additional manpower. As you know, this is a continuing expense,” Matthews said. “It is critical that when making your decision on granting my request for additional personnel, you consider the overall picture and what is best for the majority of the county.” 

In other business, council unanimously voted, 6-0, with Council Chairman Gene Wise absent, to approve seven appointments to the Kershaw County Tourism Committee. Those appointments include Dolly Chewning, Libby Davis, Henrietta Hines, Vip Patel, Henry Powers, Camden City Councilwoman Laurie Parks, and Laura Thiel Shull. Carpenter said the new appointees came from a variety of local organizations in order to ensure an “across the board” representation in the county.

DuBose said three appointees will serve one year terms and four appointees will serve two year terms. Members can’t serve more than five consecutive years, he said. The tourism committee is tasked with advising council and Kershaw County Tourism Director Darron Kirkley with matters pertaining to local tourism efforts.

Council also unanimously approved a resolution adopting a courthouse grounds usage policy. DuBose said by implementing the policy, the county can regulate the posting of signs, access to entryways, and the scheduling of events at the courthouse.

Additionally, council unanimously approved a resolution adopting rules governing public presentations. DuBose said the resolution clarifies that individuals or organizations wishing to make a presentation include a written request to be placed on council’s agenda and institutes a 15-minute time limit.

During council briefings, Smoak called for increased involvement concerning the county’s recreational needs. He indicated stronger recreational opportunities could positively impact economic growth and tourism. Councilman Willie Mickle reiterated Smoak’s comments, particularly noting the benefits of hosting tournaments. 

On a separate matter, Jones requested that the county attorney, council chair or vice chair be informed of any reason for a council member’s absence from a meeting.

In other business, council unanimously:

• approved an agreement between Lancaster and Kershaw counties for the temporary transfer of law enforcement officers -- Matthews said the agreement allows the two agencies to coordinate efforts and share officers, specifically noting narcotic agents;

• approved second reading of an ordinance amending the county’s zoning code related to the definition of a street -- Carpenter said the proposal would amend the number of lots that could be put on a road; and

• approved a resolution posthumously honoring U.S. Navy Seal Christopher Scott Kyle.

Council also entered executive session to discuss Carpenter’s evaluation and the closing of a road leading to the Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC), located at 874 Vocational Lane in Camden.

 

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