Guns might come back to the table in Dorchester County, a year after a proposed law to ban shooting near residential roads was shot down by public opposition.
County Council has asked staff for more information and data regarding a proposal by Councilman George Bailey to expand a law that currently bans discharging a firearm for hunting or target practice within 300 feet of a school. Bailey wants to make it 1,500 feet.
Council Chairman Bill Hearn said there were questions about the impact of the expanded regulation. The proposal, which came up in November, is not on the agenda for the Monday meeting in St. George.
In the swamps, pines and farmlands of Dorchester County, wild game harvesting is a way of life. Venomous snakes are a constant. The crack of gunfire is considered a part of the place.
The upper county is a rural stretch with age-old field traditions and land leased for hunting and shooting. Nearly every council member is a firearms owner.
Bailey is concerned about reports of target practice gunfire near the private Dorchester Academy in St. George, which he said is “a bad situation.”
The 1,500-feet distance, the length of five football fields, is something of a shooting-range standard around the country. But the issue is as touchy as a hair trigger in the county and region, where the traditions and an individual’s right to bear arms are zealously guarded. Most efforts to regulate firearms meet loud public resistance.
Meanwhile, county economic development recruiters are taking part in a statewide effort to recruit firearms industries. They recently have drawn a firearms importer and a separate firearms store and shooting range to Summerville.
In 2012, a proposed county law to ban shooting within 500 feet of public roads in residential areas was knocked down in a hail of opposition spurred by an email campaign of the National Rifle Association.
Council members fielded angry emails and phone calls. At the voting meeting, they were met by a room full of opponents who loudly participated when the Pledge of Allegiance was recited. Heated exchanges led one council member to set his own emptied holster and ammo boxes on the table to demonstrate that he, too, was a gun owner.
The regulation, spurred by complaints of gunfire in the developed lower county around Summerville, was at least the third version of a suburban shooting ban the council considered and dropped in the past decade when residents clamored against them.
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