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Solicitor visits Firearms Discharge Advisory Committee meeting

Posted: September 21, 2014 1:56 p.m.
Updated: September 22, 2014 6:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Fifth Judicial Circuit Deputy Solicitor Brett Perry spoke to the audience and fielded questions at Thursday’s meeting of the Kershaw County Firearms Discharge Advisory Committee.

Discussion was passionate at Thursday’s meeting of the Kershaw County Firearms Discharge Advisory Committee, with audience comments coming from both sides of the issue. The committee was formed after county council proposed an ordinance restricting the use of firearms in unincorporated areas, but it was dropped after passing first reading. County ordinances require three separate approval votes to become law. The ordinance was abandoned after outcry from gun enthusiasts who said it was too restrictive and violated their rights.

The committee’s stated goal is to craft a draft ordinance that may serve as a compromise between gun users and other residents who feel they are in danger. County councilman Sammie Tucker Jr. was instrumental in forming the committee and asked that a draft ordinance be ready to submit to council by Nov. 15. The committee meets every two weeks and so far has been receiving public input on their concerns.

Michele Hinson is a Boonetown resident and said Thursday a private shooting range near her home is a danger and a noise nuisance.

“It’s been a problem for the past three or four years … when this starts, I have a dog outside that’s on a lead. He goes berserk crazy, barking and carrying on trying to snatch off that chain. I also have three little dogs in my house that will not go outside at all when this shooting is going on,” Hinson said.

The ordinance the council considered earlier had a restriction that gun discharge would not be allowed within 300 yards of neighboring property.

Many landowners say that distance is too restrictive unless the shooting is done on a very large property.

“I run a gun shop on Lake Wateree and also teach concealed weapons training courses. I do not have a shooting range. I do not have a classroom. We pick a safe place to shoot. I’ve been teaching the classes since 1996,” Jim Hornsby said. “The ordinance as it was originally introduced, I can think of only three or four classes I could have held and done the shooting legally based on the distance restrictions that were in that ordinance.”

William Hawthorne Jr. said a neighbor’ bullet came through the walls of his home on Bishopville Highway.

“We hear gunshots. Well, I’m familiar with gunshots going off, target practicing and this and that. I’ve got no problem with it,” Hawthorne said. “The problem is, when the bullets start coming through your house you start running for your gun, trying to find out who’s coming through the door … we have holes in our walls and our TV is destroyed.”

Fifth Judicial Circuit Deputy Solicitor Brett Perry visited the meeting and repeated what committee Chairman William Tetterton, an attorney and former solicitor, has said about laws already on the books that cover many of the concerns residents have.

He said laws against noise, firing a gun under the influence of alcohol or drugs, firing into a dwelling, pointing a gun at a person and other existing laws are all enforceable.

“What I’m hearing from all of this is not so much that anybody doesn’t like guns … it seems to me the problem is discourteous and careless or downright mean gun operators or gun owners. We do have a noise ordinance and I think it’s fairly well written and has a lot of common sense application to it,” Perry said. “I’d encourage anyone who’s concerned about the noise associated with guns to get a copy of that ordinance and look at it and be familiar with it.”

Perry also said law enforcement officers need to provide the solicitor’s office with detailed reports for charges to be brought and enforced. He said the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office has a large area to cover and not enough manpower.

“One of the things everybody here needs to hear is this, the area they have to cover this county and the number of deputies to answer calls in this county are absolutely at a rock-bottom minimum. I’m not blaming anybody. The county council does a heck of a job funding the sheriff’s department and give them the resources they need to take care of folks in this county, but this is a big county,” he said. “On any given shift they’ve probably got five deputies working. Imagine if you get a domestic violence call or a burglary call. It’s going to take at least two or three of them to work that call safely and you’re left with one or two guys covering the whole county.”

Perry said making new laws is not the correct answer if problems are covered by laws we already have.

“If finding better ways to enforce the laws we have doesn’t work, then let’s sit down and come up with a law that, number one, has a common sense basis and has something that can actually be enforced by the deputies instead of just another law that’s going to be on the books and have them chasing their tails.”

Perry said he is available to return to other meetings and stayed after Thursday’s meeting adjourned to hear concerns and answer questions.

The committee’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2 in the county council chamber at the Kershaw County Government Center, 515 Walnut St., Camden. It is open to the public and anyone with comments on either side of the issue are welcome.

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