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Sheriff responds to firearms discharge ordinance decision

Posted: November 18, 2014 5:34 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2014 1:00 a.m.

The committee to study whether or not Kershaw County should enact some type of firearms discharge ordinance finally came back with its finding. As I fully expected, there will be no ordinance of any kind to deal with this growing problem. William Tetterton, a criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor and friend of mine chaired this committee. Mr. Tetterton was against any kind of firearms discharge ordinance from the beginning, so it seems a little disingenuous that a man who was strongly opposed to any firearms discharge ordinance would chair a panel deciding on whether or not one should be enacted.

Prior to my asking that county council enact such an ordinance, I requested and received an opinion from the S.C. Attorney General’s Office about this issue. I sought its unbiased opinion as to whether or not there were any existing laws that dealt with the problems of people shooting their guns near other peoples’ homes. The S.C. Attorney General’s Office has no dog in this fight so -- although its opinion is just that, an opinion -- it is unbiased and carries more weight with me than the opinion of a criminal defense attorney. It was the Attorney General’s opinion that in order to deal with people who shoot their guns near other people’s homes or business, a county would have to enact an ordinance addressing that specific issue.

While some laws do exist dealing with discharging a firearm, they are very specific and do not address the problems we so often face. No state laws currently on the books prohibit citizens from taking out their firearm and shooting it while on their property, even if they live in a subdivision, mobile home community or other congested area. Some municipalities do, but in unincorporated areas of Kershaw County, there is no prohibition against that.

Noise ordinances are extremely difficult, if not impossible to enforce. Loud noises, either coming from a party or from someone shooting their gun, is very subjective. A deputy has to be present and actually hear the noise and then be able to articulate and convince a judge that the noise was excessive.

Mr. Tetterton made mention of the fact, and it is a fact, that reports on firearms discharge complaints are not routinely written. I wish we had the time to do that. Because of our high call volume and shortage of deputies, written reports are saved for higher priority calls.

Gun control is a real concern in our society today. There is a tremendous fear, and justifiably so, that the federal government is going to enact some type of draconian gun law that will take away a law abiding citizen’s right to own or possess a firearm. I am a pro-gun sheriff and citizen. In my opinion, we have enough gun control laws already. However, we are not talking about another gun control law. We are not disguising another gun control law with an ordinance request. Our proposal was to discourage discourteous and irresponsible behavior by some in the use of their legally owned and possessed firearms. That’s it. No hidden agenda.

While it would be nice if everyone would be courteous and be good neighbors, there are many who aren’t and who see no harm in shooting their firearms whenever and wherever they want. So, the status quo that has existed for decades will continue to exist. When we receive complaints about neighbors shooting near other neighbors’ homes, the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office will do what it has done during previous administrations. A deputy will ask the offending party to please not shoot their guns near their neighbor’s home. The shooter, knowing that there is nothing we can lawfully do to make them stop, can continue as they often do, without fear of repercussion … and the cycle continues.

At this time, this issue is dead. It probably will not be brought up again in the near future by county council. I disagree with the committee’s decision and sympathize with those who complain about this problem. However, everyone should know that the solution does not lie with the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, but rather with the governing bodies that enact reasonable laws that could address this problem.

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