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Sheriff doesn’t support firearms ordinance as proposed

Posted: July 15, 2014 3:04 p.m.
Updated: July 16, 2014 5:00 a.m.

I want to go on record by saying that I am opposed to the “firearms discharge” ordinance as it was originally introduced. However, I am in favor of one if it can be revised to better fit Kershaw County. I also want the public to know that I am pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment and a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). As sheriff, I have approved hundreds, if not thousands, of concealed weapons permit applications. I am also an avid hunter and gun owner.

Several years ago, I was invited to be the featured speaker at a “Friend of the NRA” banquet in Columbia with about a thousand people in attendance. One of the points of my presentation at that banquet was the importance of NRA members, especially those who display “I’m the NRA” bumper stickers on their vehicles, to be courteous drivers. We don’t need to be perceived as hot tempered, aggressive individuals as we drive around with NRA messages on our cars.

As NRA members and pro-gun citizens, we are being watched by the gun control advocates, as well as by those who really aren’t sure about us. Whether we like it or not, we have a different kind of bull’s-eye on our backs. Gun control proponents are constantly looking for reasons to take away our guns. If we portray ourselves in a negative light, we give them a little more ammunition in their efforts to disarm us.

After my presentation, numerous NRA members came up to me and told me that my message was one that was very much needed. Others told me that they had never really considered what I had addressed that night or that public displays of anger, aggressiveness by people who are known to be pro-gun, could negatively impact our Second Amendment rights.

I would likely have never even considered the need for a “firearms discharge” ordinance as a civilian living in a very rural area of Kershaw County. My neighbor is courteous and responsible and does not discharge a firearm near my home and I do the same. Unfortunately, that cannot be said for everyone in Kershaw County. The Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office receives complaints on a regular basis from our citizens regarding neighbors who shoot their guns close to homes, in crowded areas where children play outside and at all hours of the night and day. Stray bullets have hit houses and penetrated through them and impacted near them as they stood outside.

When the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office receives those kinds of calls, our deputies respond, knowing full well that there is absolutely nothing we can lawfully do to prevent this activity. Deputies can and have spoken with the offending party, but the offending party is under no legal obligation to stop and they know it.

As it stands now, anyone who lives in unincorporated Kershaw County can discharge a firearm anywhere, as often as they like, at any time of the day or night. This includes people who live in neighborhoods, subdivisions, mobile home communities. Some have actually set up outdoor gun ranges on major roads in our county.

I propose that an ordinance needs to be adopted that does the following:

1. It prohibits the discharge of a firearm within 300 yards of a residence, business, church or school unless they receive permission from the homeowner, business owner, church or school official. (S.C. hunting laws already prohibit deer hunting within 300 yards of a residence.)

2. It allows a homeowner to discharge a weapon in self-defense or in the defense of another even within the 300 yard requirement.

That is pretty much all we need. There does not need to be a requirement that a person own so many acres of property in order to discharge a firearm. If someone has a depredation permit issued by DNR, then as long as they follow the requirements of that permit, they would be within the law. An outdoor range would have to follow the distance requirement. Some type of language would need to be included that would protect existing, approved firearms ranges. An approved indoor range would be excluded as is done in other counties.

I believe that citizen input into such an ordinance would be a good thing, but I don’t think the ordinance needs to be complicated or any more or less restrictive than what I have proposed.

Lawful gun owners who use their weapons in an irresponsible way play right into the hands of the gun control lobby that wants to portray us as reckless cowboys who have no respect for the safety of others.

In any event, the sheriff of the county does not write or enact laws or ordinances, we merely enforce them. No law, no enforcement. Without a firearms discharge ordinance, there is nothing we can do when someone chooses to shoot their weapon anywhere they want to (with a few exceptions) in our county. I encourage civil, productive discussion on this matter. Kershaw County needs a reasonable, enforceable law dealing with this issue.


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