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BOC could vote on firearms ordinance Tuesday

COVINGTON -- A proposed ordinance regulating firearms discharge could come to a vote Tuesday night.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners will hold a work session on the ordinance at 6:30 p.m. prior to its regular meeting at 7 p.m. The ordinance is on the agenda for the regular meeting as well. Both meetings will take place at the Newton County Historic Courthouse, located at 1124 Clark Street.

A draft ordinance crafted by a committee that includes citizens, Commissioners Lanier Sims and Levie Maddox, and Maj. Morris Jones with the Newton County Sheriff's Office, was headed to legal counsel for review earlier this month and is up for consideration by the board.

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 and signals at sporting events, military exercises, funerals etc.

Committee member John Head previously 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, not to include the residence of the individual discharging the firearm; place of public assembly or worship; business or roadway.

Firing into any dwelling, house, railroad train, boat, aircraft, motor vehicle, or any building or structure used for assembling of people; at any mark, inanimate object, or at random on, along or across a public highway; at or from any motor vehicle, at any person, at any other motor vehicle, or at any building or habitable structure is prohibited.

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 previously said the committee's goal was to give the sheriff an ordinance with teeth while not hurting law-abiding citizens.