By Paul Gable
The Horry County Public Safety Committee debate tonight on restricting weapons discharges in the unincorporated areas of the county was an example of government at its worst. Two days after a proposed ordinance to restrict gun use was circulated throughout the county, the whole debate became a non-issue.
Sparked by complaints from homeowners of weapons being discharged in fairly populated sub-divisions in the unincorporated areas, such as Carolina Forest, several council members requested the issue to be debated by council. The concept was to look for ways to possibly address sub-division residents’ concerns without affecting the more rural western areas of the county.
Rather than a full council discussion, such as a Committee of the Whole meeting, the issue was put on the agenda of the Public Safety Committee. County attorney Arrigo Carotti reportedly took it upon himself to craft the ordinance for discussion purposes.
However, Carotti’s draft went well beyond the limits of common sense, with respect to the various constituencies in the county, by setting limits for weapons discharges and projectile landing of 900 ft. from private homes and businesses and 1200 ft. from public areas.
Word of this immediately leaked county wide drawing considerable ire from the hunting and gun rights supporters over 100 of whom packed council chambers to hear the committee’s debate.
All of a sudden, there was no debate. A presentation by Public Safety Division head Paul Whitten and Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes made the case that current state and local law were sufficient to deal with any problems of weapons discharges in the sub-divisions. Both Whitten and Rhodes said there was no need for a new ordinance to address the issue.
Three members of the committee, Paul Price, Al Allen and James Frazier successively supported the recommendation and gun rights in general. Committee chairman Brent Schulz moderated the discussion, but, properly, did not participate in what debate there was.
The committee voted unanimously to forward a resolution to full council recommending that law enforcement personnel be allowed to deal with any potential problems with current laws and to drop the proposed new ordinance.
The vote drew a standing ovation from the over 100 spectators in the audience.
The resolution is expected to appear on the agenda for the regular meeting of county council’s April 3rd meeting.
The feeling after the issue was debated and the resolution was passed was there was much ado about nothing.
Originally, I opined that the issue may have been raised to allow council chairman Tom Rice to appear strong on it in order to strengthen his rather lagging congressional campaign. This does not appear to be the case.
Instead, it appears that there was a significant breakdown at the county staff level, which allowed the issue to become so publicly charged.
The question of why the ordinance was drafted when Whitten and Rhodes were so, obviously, against it was asked of several committee members with no explanation provided. They really didn’t seem to know.
Allowing current law to be enforced, rather than passing a new, more restrictive ordinance on gun use is the most sensible and definitely the most popular solution.
Having watched a meeting that appeared to be a game of charades at times, one questions what is the difference between the gun rights issue and the biker rally issue.
Why is it sufficient to allow current law to handle issues with weapons discharges in sub-divisions while it is considered necessary, by some of the same council members, to pass a new, more restrictive ordinance for the May bike rallies? Why can’t better enforcement of current laws be the answer to bike rally issues of noise, congestion and rowdiness raised by the public?
Maybe the answer to those questions will emerge from Tuesday’s regular council meeting as well. In the meantime, gun supporters showed their support Thursday and walked away with a victory.