COVINGTON -- A draft ordinance regulating firearms discharge in the unincorporated county has been crafted based on recommendations of a citizen's committee.
The ordinance will go to the Board of Commissioners following review by the county's legal counsel, according to committee member John Head.
The draft ordinance defines firearms as "any handgun, rifle, shotgun, or other weapon that is designed to, or may readily be converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or electrical charge." BB guns, air guns, pellet rifles or similar guns that fire projectiles by means of compressed air or other gas are not considered firearms.
As proposed, discharge of firearms would be prohibited on property less than 2 acres, except in the case of exemptions such as hunting, protecting person or property, destruction of dangerous animals or for lawful nuisance wildlife abatement, for law enforcement and military, at shooting ranges or discharge of blank cartridges for theatrical purposes, signals at sporting events, military exercises, funerals etc.
Head said the 2 acre requirement seemed like a good compromise. Previously, it was proposed that firearms discharge be prohibited in all zoning districts except agricultural, agricultural residential and rural estate districts.
The draft ordinance also prohibits discharging firearms within 100 yards of any residence, place of public assembly or worship, not to include the residence of the individual discharging the firearm.
Firing into any building, house, along or across a highway, at a person or motor vehicle would still be prohibited. In addition, discharging of firearms would be limited from one half hour after sunset until one half hour before sunrise.
Head stressed that it's a safety issue more than a gun issue. The sheriff proposed amending the current ordinance due to receiving more than 1,300 calls regarding discharge of a firearm in the past two years, many within residential areas.
Committee member Julius Hays said the committee's goal was to give the sheriff an ordinance with teeth while not hurting law abiding citizens.
The ordinance is not on Tuesday's BOC agenda but could come up at the May 21 meeting.
Commissioner John Douglas, who has been outspoken about his concerns over new regulations regarding firearms discharge, said he is still looking at the draft and gauging public sentiment.
Douglas said he wants to get input from citizens outside the committee.
"We've waited this long. There's no point in rushing it right now. We need to make sure we get it right," he said.
Douglas said he does have concerns that the proposed penalties for violators could be excessive. Those are proposed at a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and/or 30 to 120 days imprisonment for a first violation and conviction and a fine of between $1,000 and /or 90 to 120 days imprisonment for a second violation and conviction.