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County council drops firearms ordinance

Posted: July 10, 2014 5:46 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council dropped a proposed ordinance at its meeting Tuesday that would have regulated the use of firearms in the county. The matter was introduced and passed first reading at council’s June 24 meeting. After hearing many complaints from residents opposing the ordinance, it was removed from Tuesday’s meeting agenda which originally set it for second reading.

The public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting was filled with opposition to the ordinance. Dr. John Francis Zeedick said the proposed ordinance is too broad in the definition of the size of a property where firearms use would be allowed.

“The size of the property that is excluded appears to be arbitrary and capricious and mathematically inconsistent with the dimensions in the area,” Zeedick said. “If there is a need for such an ordinance, it should be written in such a way that it includes the areas that are a concern and exclude the areas that are excluded.”

Based on a similar ordinance in Richland County, the proposed ordinance said firearms could not be used within 300 yards of a neighboring property. Harry Owens said an ordinance covering a county with the population density of Richland County is not needed in Kershaw County, where the population is lower.

“We have 726 square miles in Kershaw County with an average population of 85 people per square mile. Richland County has 756 square miles, only 30 miles more than we have, with an average population more than six times of ours at 514 people per square mile. They might need an ordinance like this,” Owens said. “I live on a small plot of land. We pay a lot of taxes. We vote. We generate a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of revenue for this county. I hunt on 105 acres. On that 105 acres, the way it’s laid out, there’s no place on it that’s more than 1,800 feet wide.”

Steve Melton owns an east Camden gun store and is a certified firearms instructor. He said rules that make sense in populated areas shouldn’t be applied to rural acreage.

“The way the ordinance is written, it’s a ‘one size fits all.’ I know some of you here own tracts of land. If you go out and do the math and base it off this new ordinance, it’ll cut off half of my dove field. But I can get 400 yards back in the back and I can still make a beeline shot and hit my neighbor’s door with a 30-06,” Melton said. “We’ve got some people in the county running around in these subdivisions that’s shooting in the back yard. I’m not going to say for a moment that something doesn’t need to be done. But writing an ordinance that’s this wide?”

Councilman Jimmy Jones, who first introduced the ordinance, said it has been killed and if it is reintroduced it will not be by him.

“In council deliberations, nothing can be discussed until it is brought to the table. To bring an issue to the table requires a motion or a proposal. Discussion begins only after a motion is made or a proposal is put forth,” Jones said. “I am frequently called by my constituents on a daily basis: you, the people I represent who expect me to work to help remedy the situation you called me about. That’s why I’m here. I work for you. I have not forgotten that.”

Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr. has scheduled a “roundtable discussion” on responsible gun usage for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 16 in the council chambers inside the government center at 515 Walnut St. in Camden.  

In other council business, council considered several ordinances pertaining to the county’s zoning and land development regulations. At County Attorney Ken DuBose’s suggestion, council tabled three of the ordinances which were scheduled for third reading. DuBose said other zoning ordinances set for second reading could be voted on and, if they were approved on second reading, all the ordinances would be up for third reading at the same time. The four ordinances left on Tuesday’s agenda passed second reading, all unanimously.

Council also passed first reading of an ordinance amending and restating the Kershaw County Procurement Code. DuBose said the amended code would affect multi-year contracts.

“It gives procurement more flexibility for long-term contracts -- computer purchases, garbage disposal and garbage pickup, there’s a lot of cases where the county needs to enter into long-term contracts. This just gives more guidelines,” DuBose said.

Council unanimously passed a resolution regarding the lease-purchase of vehicles for the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office that would allow the county to obtain the vehicles now and reimburse itself when funds are available.

“When … council approved the budget, it included money for lease-purchasing vehicles. This allows us to go ahead and purchase those vehicles now and reimburse ourselves when the actual bond is sold,” Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter said. “This will allow the sheriff to purchase the vehicles he needs.”

Finally, council ratified the addition of Chairman Gene Wise and Lugoff attorney Ben Connell to the board of the newly-formed public facilities corporation that will oversee $8.5 million the county will receive from a bond recently approved by council. The funds will be used for capital projects, including upgrading the county detention center, recreation facilities and Central Carolina Technical College.


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