The gun-firing ordinance discussion got a reboot at Tuesday night’s county work session as the citizen committee looking at the ordinance gave some preliminary findings which appear to address many people’s concerns.
Here were the committee’s initial takes on a revised gun-firing ordinance, as presented by Jenny Carter with the county attorney’s office who also gave some additional information as warranted:
- Hunting would be totally exempt from any local gun-firing laws; hunters would be able to hunt anywhere in the county on any type of zoning as long as they follow state law, which has its own yardage requirements and many other safety protocols (The News had asked the county attorney’s office for clarification on this aspect last week, and County Attorney Tommy Craig said it would be presented Tuesday).
- Night hunting would also be allowed; again, it would only have to follow state law.
- As far as sport shooting and target practice are concerned, the committee is looking at keeping the current 100-yard restriction on firing from buildings and roads (the previously proposed, more restrictive 350-yard restriction is off the table).
- BB guns, air guns, pellet rifles and similar guns are likely to be exempted from firing restrictions in some way.
- Gun firing (again, main uses being sport shooting and target practice) is not expected to be restricted by zoning; the committee felt that was too broad of a restriction. Instead, it is looking at possibly restricting firing based on either lot size (something like restricting firing on properties less than two acres) or population density (maybe based on census blocks with more than 520 people per square mile).
- Current exemptions, which allow guns to be fired anywhere as needed for protection of property, person, including the disposal of dangerous and nuisance animals, would be kept.
The committee, which is comprised of six citizens, two county commissioners and one sheriff’s office employee, Major Morris Jones, will continue to explore more options. The group is expected to take up to 90 days before returning to the Board of Commissioners with a proposal.
The citizen committee members were revealed Tuesday night; they are:
- Stan Edwards Jr. (District 1, near Mansfield)
- Julius Hays (District 1)
- John Head (District 2, businessman)
- Ed Hutter (District 5, Cornish Mountain area)
- Kevin Norman (District 2, longtime hunter)
- Marcus Stowe (south of Almon community)
In addition, Ernie Smith, who works in the county’s Geographic Information Systems department and is responsible for many of the data maps used in recent discussions, will also provide staff support to the committee.
District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz asked that a woman or two be added to the committee if possible, and she and other commissioners hoped for more representation from the western side of the county, where the majority of 911 calls related to the presumably-illegal “discharge of a firearm” stem from. The high number of calls, 1,330 in the past two years, is the main reason why Sheriff Ezell Brown proposed making changes to the current gun-firing ordinance in the first place.
At least one community member volunteered to be added to the committee after the work session. Numbers for the citizen committee members will be published once they are provided.
Some citizens spoke after the meeting, and their concerns, along with that of District 1 Commissioner John Douglas, seem to stem around the fact that at its heart, this is an issue of better enforcement of current laws, not the altering of them.
The current ordinance would likely already outlaw the majority of gunshots being fired in western Newton County; therefore, either the county needs to better enforce the laws or better inform citizens about the current laws.
You Can watch the work session Here.