Calling their last attempt to ban reckless shooting ineffective, Horry County Council began crafting a revised policy this week.
They hope to prevent dangerous recreational shooting near large residential developments.
“I am a responsible gun owner,” said councilman Dennis DiSabato, whose district includes part of Carolina Forest. “I don’t want to restrict anybody’s gun rights, but the last thing I want us to have to do is attend a funeral for a kid who was shot by a stray [bullet].”
A draft ordinance presented during the county’s public safety committee meeting Tuesday also prohibits shooting in large residential developments and includes certain exceptions.
Horry County Police Chief Joe Hill said the proposal would not just apply to those who recklessly fire a gun. It allows law enforcement to cite the owner or caretaker of a property that is determined to be the site of the shooting.
DiSabato said the current ordinance does not define what makes a discharge “reckless.”
“It’s very subjective,” he said.
He stressed the importance of crafting an ordinance that is enforceable.
Hill said law enforcement can express what is considered a reckless discharge to the court.
“As a police officer, we’re responsible for every round that leaves our weapon,” he said. “But as a gun owner, you are too. Any round that gets beyond your backstop, your berm, whatever you have and it impacts someone’s life … [or] property, I can articulate that is a reckless discharge.”
DiSabato acknowledged there are residents in the rural parts of the county who would be against a stronger ordinance and council members who might have concerns.
As such, he suggested implementing different zones.
One zone could include a heavily populated area and prohibit shooting from a certain distance of residences in one of the major residential developments.
A zone in a rural part of the county could have a decreased buffer.
He stressed the new ordinance would be geared toward densely populated, unincorporated areas such as Carolina Forest and Forestbrook.
“We’re not talking about Aynor, Green Sea and Loris,” he said. “We’re talking about the places closer to the beach that aren't in the municipalities.”
Koty Price — a Carolina Forest resident who lives in the Plantation Lakes community — and some of his neighbors were in attendance at the meeting.
He said bullets flying into the community from outside the subdivision is a frequent problem.
Price pointed out that he himself is a gun owner.
“It’s not an anti-gun matter,” he said. “It’s a gun safety matter at this point.”
His fence has been struck in addition to a neighbor’s home.
“This is an extreme problem,” he said. “I’m afraid to go out in the yard at times.”
He said zones could be helpful because it would cause more awareness of the issue at hand.
Hill said what Price and his neighbors have been dealing with is “ridiculous” and police would begin to patrol their community more frequently.
Officers can charge those causing some of the problems by enforcing trespassing laws and the ordinance already in effect. However, Hill said determining who fired a shot deemed reckless can be challenging and that ballistics testing is difficult.
Hill said implementing zones could be beneficial.
To support this, he mentioned a hypothetical case where someone reported shots being fired and another person was found in a nearby wooded area in one of the zones with a gun.
“We’re going to have to do some investigating,” he said. “We have to determine if they are the ones who fired a shot. It’s going be difficult, but it gives a little bit more leverage to force somebody to tell us the truth.”
Councilman Orton Bellamy said signage put up to accompany the ordinance is another way to get people’s attention.
County attorney Arrigo Carotti is preparing to provide the public safety committee with maps outlining where shooting would be permitted.