Horry County Council members are in no rush to regulate firing guns on private property in unincorporated areas. In August, the council’s Public Safety Committee said a proposed regulation needs further discussion with residents. So, further action on the proposal awaits council members doing some homework.
According to Public Safety Committee chairman Al Allen, the delay “will give councilmen time to get out there and talk to their constituents and to get with staff and see if there are any possibilities that we can explore, because it’s going to meet a constitutional challenge, it’s going to meet a public challenge.”
Given attitudes about individual “rights” in general and firearms in particular, the chairman may be correct in saying any proposed regulation concerning guns will meet public resistance. One wonders, however, about Allen’s point on a constitutional challenge. Regulating where guns may be legally discharged for target shooting and the like is not a 2nd Amendment issue – well, we perhaps should modify that to say it should not be a 2nd Amendment issue.
The Supreme Court of the United States has broadly upheld Amendment 2, which protects individual rights to bear arms. This is the second statement of the Bill of Rights, which the original 13 states insisted on; the first ten amendments were necessary for ratification of the Constitution.
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Horry County is extremely diverse in population density. There are thousands of acres of rural areas and places such as Carolina Forest, Little River and Socastee that are home to folks living as close to their neighbors, as is the case in the municipalities of Conway, Myrtle Beach or Surfside Beach. Some unincorporated communities are literally across the street from cities and towns.
At least five Horry County municipalities have ordinances banning the discharge of weapons. Horry County has no such ordinance. S.C. law relating to hunting disallows shooting within 300 yards of a residence without the owner’s permission. The shooting issue came to the council’s attention in June when a resident of Pine Valley Estates told the council lives were endangered and residents were bothered by noise by a neighbor’s firing too close to homes.
After the committee held up the proposal, a Conway resident outlined in a letter to the editor a situation in which residents of a community were impacted by a neighbor, not in the boundaries of a homeowners association, firing into the other side of a berm on the writer’s property. That addresses Allen’s suggestion that “most of these things can be banned in these subdivisions through their HOAs.”
HOAs vary widely in their governance, so to speak, and in their ability to regulate human behavior. Horry County needs to ban discharge of firearms in large neighborhoods. The city of Myrtle Beach ordinance would be a good model for the county. This is a public safety matter, not a challenge of the U.S. Constitution, and council members must not lose sight of that as they talk to their constituents.