Gun owners "up in arms" over possible rule change

CONWAY, S.C. (WPDE) - To say some South Carolinians are passionate about protecting their right to bear arms is an understatement. Thursday night in front of a packed house, Horry County's Public Safety Committee discussed possible regulations of where gun owners can fire their weapons. The meeting comes on the heels of concerns raised by some in the community about gunfire too close to their homes.

In the unincorporated areas of Horry County, you can fire a gun anywhere you choose. Those is in attendance at the Public Safety Committee meeting showed their support of it staying that way.

"We have existing laws on the books. If we enforce those laws for the benefit of everybody, we won't have a problem," said Richard Pfeiffer. He's a SLED and NRA certified firearms instructor. Pfeiffer explained when it comes to guns, "Safety, safety, safety, and it's just common sense."

But at least one person in an audience that overflowed into a second room is in favor of regulation. Bo Ives is a Carolina Forest resident and wants County Council to step in because of a personal experience. "One year after I moved here, neighbors next door moved in and within four days shot and maimed my cat. Two doors down, we have neighbors who frequently shoot in their backyard, and they were training their children before they were in elementary school, and I think that's just poor judgement."

Ives said close proximity is also a concern. "In Carolina Forest there are a lot of homes that are only on quarter acre lots. The homes are only ten feet apart, and we think that's an awfully restrictive area for people to be shooting pellet guns, paintball guns, and bows and arrows."

Public Safety Director Paul Whitten presented two options for dealing with the issue. Option one calls for the enforcement of existing laws like the noise ordinance and disorderly conduct. Interim Police Chief Saundra Rhodes told the committee that sometimes alcohol is involved, so the disorderly conduct applies to those cases. She also said in the past officers would tell people who complained about gunfire nothing could be done. Now that's changed, and an officer with at least a Sgt. rank or higher will be called in to help resolve the dispute.

Option two would make it illegal to discharge a firearm within 1,200 feet of a school, public building or park and 900 feet of any dwelling or business. Whitten said it would not affect ownership or possession.

Whitten and Rhodes endorsed option one which was met with audience approval.

As for Ives, he's hoping for option two. "What we're asking council to consider is a zone of protection for residential dwellers in the urban portion of the county."

The Public Safety Committee decided to support option one. The issue will now go before the entire county council.