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‘A slippery slope’: Horry County Council to consider stronger gun safety laws

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.

Horry County Council could prohibit firing a gun in most unincorporated areas east of the Waccamaw River due to a new ordinance.

The Public Safety Committee of County Council discussed changes to the reckless discharge of a firearm ordinance at its Tuesday afternoon meeting. Council Member Dennis DiSabato said changing the ordinance is a matter of safety, and that it is not trying to place gun control measures on responsible citizens.

“We’re not trying to legislate good neighbors, we’re trying to legislate the jackasses,” DiSabato said.

The committee decided to send the ordinance up to full County Council to be voted on at an upcoming meeting. If approved as-is, the new ordinance would prohibit firing a gun in most areas east of the Waccamaw River, within 500 feet of a major housing development of more than 11 houses, within 500 feet of a public building or park and on any road right-of-ways owned by Horry County.

To protect gun owners, the ordinance includes exemptions for police, self-defense, gun clubs, a permitted event and properties larger than 5 acres, even in urban areas.

Council Member Harold Worley said he could support increasing the prohibition range up to 1,000 feet of a housing development. He said high-powered rifles can easily shoot farther than 500 feet, and he does not want to attend a funeral of a constituent killed due to a reckless shooter.

For Committee Chair Danny Hardee, who represents a more rural district, it’s a tough call. He said he doesn’t want to keep anyone from discharging a firearm, nor participating in Southern gun culture, but he also doesn’t want to see people have their property harmed.

“For a lack of better words, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” he said.

Council Member Al Allen said he thinks the reckless discharge ordinances on the books are enough to give county police the tools to keep citizens safe. He sees the proposed ordinance as punishing people who have done nothing wrong and says it won’t stop those harming the community.

“I’m afraid that this will start us down a slippery slope that will continue to erode the gun rights of the citizens of our county,” Allen said. “We will never be able to legislate good common sense, so why penalize the good people?”

He added that the ordinance’s exemptions would make it where gun owners who can’t afford 5 acres of land would be treated worse than gun owners who have large amounts of property. Allen said he will not vote for any changes until the public is given more time to provide review the changes and provide feedback.

Hardee said he knows this ordinance isn’t going to stop every reckless shooter, but he hopes a new ordinance can give police more guidance. DiSabato agreed, adding he doesn’t want to harm law-abiding citizens either, but said there needs to be a reckless shooting standard to hold people accountable.

“What we need to do is clearly articulate and define what is the standard of recklessness because it is too objective,” DiSabato said. “Whatever we can do to protect people from harmed from reckless people, we need to do that. We have a moral obligation.”

The proposed ordinance will go on to full County Council for first reading on Sept. 3. If approved on first reading, the second reading with public input will most likely be held on Sept. 17.

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