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Forum Monday on proposed gun laws
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Citizens will have the opportunity to voice their concerns with proposed changes to the county’s discharge of a firearm ordinance at a forum next week.

The Newton County Farm Bureau will host a public forum for the proposed changes pertaining to the ordinance 7 p.m., Monday, at the historic courthouse.

Keith Mitcham, the new president of the Newton County Farm Bureau, said the meeting is open to the public and not just for members of the Farm Bureau.

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown presented the Newton County Board of Commissioners with recommended changes to the discharge of a firearm ordinance in February during its annual retreat.

The recommendation proposes to prohibit firearms, “in a manner which results in the projectile leaving the property on which it is fired,” and “within 350 yards of any residence, place of public of worship, business, or roadway,” which Brown said was the standard in effect prior to 2006.

The ordinance would prohibit the discharge of firearms within the R1, R2, R3, MSR, DR, RMF, MHP, MHS, OI, CN, CG, M1 and M2 zoning districts. However, within all other zoning districts, the discharge of firearms would be allowed only with adequate protection in the form of a backstop recommended by the sheriff’s department. Firearm discharge will be limited to between one-half hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset.

The ordinance includes several exemptions to the proposed changes, one of the new exemptions added includes hunting regulated by and conducted in accordance with state law.

Since recommendations were made to modify the firearm ordinance in February, Mitcham said he has received feedback from members of the Farm Bureau, who have voiced some concerns with the ordinance, which he said prompted the need for a public forum.

“We (had) a lot of concerns from our members because of the proposed yardage of the new ordinance effecting agricultural zoning,” Mitcham said. “I think we actually represent (with) a little over 3,000 members in the county. So on the actual agriculture side of the ordinance, there were some issues and a lot of it was a misunderstanding from the different types of nuisance type animals and things like that being concerns too.”

Mitcham said county commissioners and the sheriff plan to attend the forum, where people will be asked to sign-in prior to the meeting if they would like to speak on the issues and will be given two minutes to do so. He said the meeting is designed to solicit public comments and not a time for personal attacks or outbursts.

“We hope that we will get some constructive input from this, not just complaints,” Mitcham said. “This will be a place to voice your concerns and what not. But we are going to have a time limit and we are going to try to keep it in orderly fashion.”

He also added that Newton County Farm Bureau is not taking a stance on the issue and that the organization decided to host the forum due to the fact that the proposed ordinance could have an impact on agriculture.

“(We want to) inform (people) without taking any stance of being for or against the proposals that would go in the new ordinance. I think we are just kind of facilitating public input,” he said. “We’re [helping] our members, just to give the opportunity for our members and the public to voice their concerns and hopefully have some constructive input.”

More information on the current ordinance for Newton County can be found by visiting