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Sheriff wants new limits on firearms discharge

COVINGTON — Sheriff Ezell Brown is recommending changes to the county’s ordinance regulating discharging of firearms, citing public safety concerns.

Brown told commissioners at their retreat over the weekend that the sheriff’s office has received a large number of calls related to firearms being discharged in or near residentially zoned areas. Some of the callers have reported shrapnel crossing property lines and, in some cases, hitting their homes and endangering their families, he said. In 2011, there were 616 calls and in 2012, there were 714 calls related to firearms discharging. Through Feb.7, there have been 80 calls this year.

Brown is proposing prohibiting the discharge of firearms “in a manner which results in the projectile leaving the property on which it is fired” and within 350 yards of any residence, place of worship or public assembly or roadway. The current ordinance limits it to within 100 yards.

“The timing of it may be such sensitive timing right now because of everything else going on with the gun rights, so forth and so on,” Brown said. “I think this is far beyond gun rights. I think this is about the protection of our community.”

Brown reminded commissioners of an incident in 2007 in which a stray bullet from a gun being used for target practice by two men came through the roof of a Newton County home and killed a 31-year-old mother of three as she sat at her computer.

Brown said he received a recent complaint from a resident whose neighbor started shooting a small caliber gun at about 9 a.m. and by 11:30 appeared to be shooting a .50 caliber.

“All I can tell property owners is you need to talk to your Board of Commissioners about this. We can only enforce what’s on the books,” he said, adding that deputies often find themselves acting as mediators between neighbors.

Brown said neighboring counties have had tougher ordinances in place for years.

Commissioner John Douglas raised a concern about the affect on hunting areas on the east side of the county and the South River Gun Club. The gun club would be grandfathered under an exemption for shooting ranges, said Jenny Carter with the County Attorney’s Office.

“With all this talk about gun control, I’m not sure the timing on this is not going to put us in a bind, or put me in a bind over on the east side,” Douglas said.

Brown said the issue isn’t about gun control.

“I’m in favor of the Second Amendment,” Brown said. “However, I think we would negate to do our fundamental duties if we wait until this time next year or four years from now and we lose lives as a result of us thinking politically.”

Commissioner Lanier Sims said he has received numerous calls over the last two years from residents saying bullets have been flying over their roofs and, in at least one case, hitting a man’s home.

Commissioner Levie Maddox added that while he does target practice with his kids, he’s concerned that during hunting season there are bullets whizzing by his house, located in the center of 86 acres.

“I think we need to protect the citizens and our officers and support them,” he said.

Under Brown’s proposal, discharge of firearms would be prohibited in most zoning districts: R1, R2 and R3 — single family residential; MSR — mixed use single family residential; DR — single and two family residential; RMF — multi-family residential; MHP — manufactured home park; MHS — manufactured home subdivision; OI — office institutional; CN — neighborhood commercial; CH — highway commercial; CG — general commercial; M1 — light industrial and M2 — heavy industrial.

It would be allowed in agricultural, agricultural residential and rural estate districts, but only if there is adequate protection in the form of a backstop and proper field of fire arranged to prevent danger to neighbors and nearby properties.

Firearm discharge in the appropriate areas would be limited to between one half-hour before sunrise and one-half hour after sunset.

Prohibitions against firing at a person, at or from a dwelling, house, railroad, train, boat, aircraft, motor vehicle or building used for assembling people would remain.

Exemptions in place would remain for law enforcement; anyone lawfully destroying dangerous animals for wildlife nuisance abatement; discharge of blank cartridges for theatrical or signal purposes, military exercises or funerals or memorial events; any resident lawfully defending person or property; and lawful use at a private or commercial sport shooting range. An exemption for hunting regulated and conducted in accordance with state law has also been added.

The BOC plans to discuss Brown’s proposal at its March 5 meeting.

Comments

John 1 year, 9 months ago

I live in District 1 in a residential area with a minium of 1 acre lots and there are two "cowboys" that just luv to sound off their firearms whenever the mode strikes them or they are seeking attnetion. I am total in favor of the proposal that Sheriff Brown has put forth for the following reasons: 1. If some one wants to shoot or sight in their deer rifle, Charles Elliot is just a short drive down Hwy 11 & has all the safety measures not found in back yards/woods. Plus, it is a nice place to visit. 2. A well know fact is thatGeorgia soil is full of rocks ( I dig them out of my lawn all the time as they get pushed up towards the surface). A high velocity bullet hitting one of those can ricochet out of the confines of the shooters property quit easily & an I'm sorry may not be good enough. Last time I checked there is no such thing as a planned accident. 3. A little 22 short can travel one mile when shot out of a rifle - that statement used to be printed on the boxes. 4. I am not against guns as I have mine or gunowners - just the not very responsible or considerate ones - like the two I'm aware of in our 'hood.

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nc333 1 year, 9 months ago

I live in District 5 in an agricultural-residential area and would love see Sheriff Brown's proposal enacted. Recently, a ricocheting bullet hit a tree and dropped at my husband's feet as he was standing in our driveway while our neighbors practiced shooting against a tree in their yard. We didn't call the sheriff's office because it was a neighbor. Everyone on my street has ten-acre lots min., but the shooting has increased and the danger has too. Hopefully something will be done before there's a tragic incident in Newton County.

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Frustrated 1 year, 9 months ago

Im just glad Douglas is concerned about getting himself in a bind on the eastside. The heck with the safety of the residents as long as he doesnt get himself in a bind. And you all thought Douglas was going to be better than Ewing. At least Ewing didnt make it all me me me. Oh wait, yes he did.

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Bemused 1 year, 9 months ago

Douglas constantly refers to the eastern side simply because it is the side that is in the 10th Congressional District. He has checked out of being a county commissioner and is very actively campaigning for bigger and better for him things. The people who actually live here don't matter to him at all.

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henrystamm 1 year, 9 months ago

Also i support sheriff Brown in almost every aspect, I just want to remind him that we have a firing of a weapon restriction on the books. For all of you prohibitionists that is all we need. None of our neighbors are abusing the law, Maybe those two yahoos in Johns neighborhood should be informed of that law by our Sheriff, it is in effect and valid for district one too. What are you going to do about a falling limb that can kill you John? Don't be stupid.

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John 1 year, 9 months ago

henrystamm, I ain't as stupid as I look and was born a night (1:22 AM to be exact) but not last night. I have called the NCSO twice and the Deputy's pat answer is - "Nuttin' we can do unless we catch 'em in the act !!". Henry, you are invited to come to place and help me cut down some dead trees in the woods behind my home but on my property - I just need a back. See this person grew up on a farm and knows well how to fell or trim a tree, we had a wood burning stove for heat and my back isn't what it used to be, I pay below minimum wage for back work adn bring your own water to drink. One other thing I'll share my Mom raised me to never call anyone stupid whether you know them or not. Just guessing - you missed that lesson. See people are not stupid, they may be ignorant from lack of experience or listening to their teachers including the one in school. Touche!! .

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Frustrated 1 year, 9 months ago

we have laws against speeding, driving intoxocated and other things. That dont make people stop doing it. Just like all the gun bans Obama wants now. No amount of laws will take the guns out of the hands of criminals because they dont follow the rules.

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John 1 year, 9 months ago

Most laws are written are not for those who obey laws but for a small but growing percent of the poplulation that just don't care. It is up to law enforcement to enforce those laws, if they don't, they need to turn in their badges, if they can't be everywhere then the tax payers need to support an increase the size of the force(s). (e.g. there are only 4 deputies that have responsiblity for traffic control in Newton County & are often assigned to "other" duties, generally involving east NC, plus they can only run radar if they are moving, except on one road in NC. The violators are well aware of these limitations. I'd rather pay a SPLOT tax for that purpose vs IMHO wasteful BOE projects.

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dennistay53 1 year, 9 months ago

Agree with everything you say in this posting John. Safety and catching criminals in this county seem to take a back seat to putting up buildings we don't need when it comes to spending our tax money. Note Civic center paid for with 2005 SPLOST and still not built, New eastside school we don't need, Ag center, i could go on and on and on.

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John 1 year, 9 months ago

Your comments are appreciated. Guess "I'm moving on up" like the Jeffersons". Would add wo smaller projects that was under taken, the infamous "trail (concrete at that "from EHS to the library and the tunnel under Turner Lake with a side walk to no where.. I realize these were C of C projects but reflects the how the "leaders" wants to waste taxpayers $$ on during difficult economic times. They must have been "shop-a-holics" before taking on a position to "serve" the people.

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jrobin 1 year, 9 months ago

More and strickter laws will not keep stupip people from doing stupid things.all they will do is tie the hands of respondible people. please think about it. take care of the problems as they arise, and by the way that is why we have a sheriff's dept.and don't just throw a blanket over the whole county.

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tomgahunter 1 year, 9 months ago

I live in district 1 off 278 & regurarly shoot my shotgun in the back yard, none of my neighbors care because they do the same thing.

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LoFlyer 1 year, 9 months ago

I shoot regularly at Charlie Elliot, it is relatively safe on the skeet and 100 yard ranges. The 50 yard range is where all the newbies hang out and many of them are clueless on gun-safety. They have never been taught range or gun safety, decide to buy a weapon and are menace on the range. The CE range attendants do their best but they can't be everywhere. Every citizen should be taught gun safety at either the public schools, parents or friends. As it stands now very few people understand just how dangerous high velocity lead is, and learn gun safety from the action movies or TV. You can learn to be perfectly safe with a weapon, unfortunately the average citizen doesn't have the knowledge. Charlie Elliot has moved to a fee based system for using their facilities and has worked hard to improve their ranges over the last year. The new CE skeet/trap ranges are state-of-the-art facilities and generally that's where you find the best shooters. If you follow the rules the sport is safe. Best regards and be safe out there guys and gals!

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