Horry County leaders send firearm ordinance back to public safety committee

Horry County leaders send firearm ordinance back to public safety committee

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - A proposed firearms ordinance that has sparked debate has been sent back to the public safety committee to be revised.

The Horry County Council made the decision during Tuesday night’s meeting.

At a Horry County public safety meeting in August, county council discussed changing the county’s gun use ordinance. This issue was first brought up by residents who voiced concerns over stray bullets in their neighborhoods, with some residents in the county reporting stray bullets flying into yards. Now, they’re concerned about keeping their property and family safe.

James Miller spoke in support of the ordinance during Tuesday night’s meeting, saying he had a stray bullet hit his home three years ago and it went into his granddaughter’s room.

“I don’t want to see children die. I don’t want to see a stray bullet come through my yard. I used to be worried about them crossing the street. I’m worried about them playing in the d--- yard now,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, another resident, Chad Caron, spoke out and said that council members need to focus on bigger issues instead of the firearm ordinance.

“This is about keeping people safe? Then fix the infrastructure instead of throwing up a new ordinance, that’s also unenforceable until we fix the infrastructure,” Caron said. “The way building is going right now, we’re going to run out of places to hunt by this ordinance. I can’t afford five acres, but I do like to go out and shoot. I do like to hunt."

Currently, firearms are not allowed to be in use within 300 feet of housing developments, schools, parks or public buildings. In 2017, county leaders enacted an ordinance allowing law enforcement to investigate the discharge of a firearm and determine what is safe and unsafe. Some said there’s been a problem with people in the community shooting firearms in densely populated areas, and the growth in the area is only adding to it.

Under this new proposed ordinance, it would extend the current restrictions to 500 feet. Some officials said they hope to prevent what they call dangerous recreational shooting near large residential developments.

The proposed ordinance would also prohibit shooting in Longs and most of the county east of the Waccamaw River. But during Tuesday night’s meeting, councilman Dennis DiSabato requested that the public safety committee focus on the Carolina Forest area.

However, some council members have some concerns about the possible change. Horry County Councilman Johnny Vaught said he believes the current ordinance is fine where it stands and doesn’t require any changes. Some also said the ordinance is too vague and the main problem is it’s hard to determine what is a “reckless” discharge of a firearm, adding it needs to be more specific.

“It basically starts putting in stipulations about what is a major development and how close you can be to schools, how close you can be to development. So when you shoot, it doesn’t talk about the fact, it says that you got to be more than 500 feet away from a development, but depends on what direction you’re shooting in too doesn’t it?" said Vaught.

Some leaders said while they understand the dangers of reckless shooting, the new policy would unfairly punish sensible gun owners. Robert Battista owns 707 Gun Shop and indoor shooting range and blames the growth in the county. He says it’s not unusual to hear gunshots go off. As the area continues to grow, some people are still using their backyards as gun ranges. He and other gun owners say this will infringe on their freedom to own and shoot a firearm.

“It’s going to force people to have to drive further and further out to the country to recreational shoot. Right now, there’s only two or three ranges in Horry County, and so somebody’s going to have to either build more county or state-funded ranges or we’re going to have to come up with a better solution," said Battista.

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