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‘I am afraid to go in my backyard’: How Horry County could combat reckless shooting

Carolina Forest resident says frequent shooting endangering community

Koty Price, along with other members of the Carolina Forest community, says frequent shooting in a nearby wooded area is endangering the residents in his neighborhood. Members are asking Horry County Council to take a closer look at local laws.
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Koty Price, along with other members of the Carolina Forest community, says frequent shooting in a nearby wooded area is endangering the residents in his neighborhood. Members are asking Horry County Council to take a closer look at local laws.

Carolina Forest resident Koty Price is tired of bullets flying near his suburban home.

On Tuesday, he and several of his neighbors spoke to the Horry County Public Safety Committee asking them to revisit gun safety laws to keep more urban areas of the county safe from stray bullets.

A gun owner himself, Price said he has no problem with people enjoying their firearms, they just need to do it safely away from people’s homes.

“It’s not a gun rights matter, it’s a gun safety matter,” he said. “This is an extreme problem. I am afraid to go into my backyard sometimes.”

Price’s neighborhood borders a wooded area where he said people often target practice. While most bullets stay down below the berm around his home, some miss or ricochet and hit his property. There is a bullet hole in a fence just feet from his home. One of his neighbors has had a window broken, he said.

Horry County Council Member Dennis DiSabato, who represents parts of Carolina Forest, said something needs to be done to keep people safe while also respecting gun rights.

“I am a gun owner, I am a responsible gun owner. I don’t want to take anyone’s rights away,” he said. “But the last thing I want to do is attend a funeral of a kid who was shot by a stray bullet.”

In his ideal plan, DiSabato said the most urban areas of unincorporated Horry County would be zoned to have the largest buffer between homes and where people are allowed to shoot.

Generally speaking, he said everything east of Wild Wing Boulevard would be considered in the most urban areas with the largest barriers. DiSabato said it’s hard to say exactly where each zone would fall, but the hope is to lessen the impact to gun owners safely shooting in rural areas or on large tracts of land.

Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill said what’s going on in some parts of Carolina Forest is “ridiculous” and can be stopped under current regulations.

“As a police officer we’re responsible for every bullet that leave our gun. As a gun owner, you are too,” Hill said. “Any round that gets beyond your backstop, your berm or whatever you have, and it impacts someone’s life or property, I can articulate that’s a reckless discharge.”

Currently, if a Carolina Forest resident called in a reckless shooter, there are rules on the books to stop it. Trespassing or the reckless discharge ordinance can be brought against people shooting too close to homes.

The current ordinance for firing a weapon says any bullet that harms a person, property or animal is considered reckless. It also bans shooting at night from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

For first offense, someone recklessly firing a gun could face a misdemeanor charge, a $500 fine and jail time. A charge still requires the offender to go in front of the magistrate court. Hill said an issue his officers run into is determining who fired the gun.

The issue, Hill said, is finding the evidence to present to court and enforcing the law. DiSabato said it is council’s role to create enforceable laws and asked the police chief if zones would help.

“If you found someone out in the woods in a zone and they had a firearm on them and someone reports it they’re firing,” Hill responded. “We’re going to have to do some investigating to see if they’re the ones who fired the shot. It’s going to be difficult, but it gives us more leverage to force someone to tell us the truth.”

Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti has been tasked with creating a few different maps of where it is appropriate to shoot. They will be presented back to the public safety committee at its next meeting.

Public Safety Chair Danny Hardee agreed with DiSabato something needs to be done before a kid gets killed on accident, but he said it’s not going to be easy to bring charges against people recklessly shooting guns.

“We’re trying to fix stupid and that ain’t an easy job,” Hardee said.

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Development and Horry County reporter Tyler Fleming joined The Sun News in May of 2018. He covers other stuff too, like reporting on beer, bears, breaking news and Coastal Carolina University. He graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018 and was the 2017-18 editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. He has won (and lost) several college journalism awards.

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