During the last Newton County Commissioner's Retreat, I submitted a proposal regarding the discharge of firearms in high-density areas. After careful research, we asked that the county allow us to return to the guidelines established prior to the 2006 version of the county ordinance governing this matter.
The goal of the Sheriff's Office is to create a safer environment for all citizens. In 2006 the ordinance was changed to allow a discharge distance of 100 yards. Therefore, we asked that we expand the distance allowance. While we cannot say where the safety net exists between zero and 1,000 feet, we know that the current ordinance is not sufficient in high-density areas.
Deputies responded to more than 600 discharge of firearms calls in 2011 and more than 700 in 2012. In 2013 we have already received more than 80 calls. More than 90 percent of these calls came from the more densely populated western section of Newton County.
This is a major safety concern in that the majority of calls have involved properties in, or adjacent to, residentially zoned properties. Some actually involved complaints of shrapnel causing injury to citizens and penetration of homes. These issues are directly linked to distance and carelessness on the part of the shooter.
The Board of Commissioners, along with the County Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Office, will form a committee of concerned citizens to review proposed changes to the ordinance. My office, with the help of citizens, will enforce the recommendations set forth by the Board of Commissioners.
In the past few weeks, I have received numerous calls asking where I stand on the issues of gun control and firearm safety. First of all, as your sheriff, I support the United States Constitution and will uphold the oath of office as sheriff. I will also support the Code of Ethics of my office. Secondly, let it be understood that the county ordinance under consideration only speaks to firearm safety -- not to the "right to bear arms."
As a Constitutionally elected sheriff, I recognize and accept that I am afforded special trust and confidence from the citizens that I am elected to serve and represent and the employees that I manage. Your trust and confidence in me form the foundation of my bond with you. As leader of this department, I am bound to ensure the safety and welfare of all citizens.-- Ezell Brown
Newton County SheriffEditor's note: The Newton County Sheriff's Office offers Firearms Safety Classes to civic groups and individual citizens. These classes cover legal rights and responsibilities related to self-defense. For more information, please call 678-625-1400 and ask for Lt. Paul Gunter.