The county-appointed Firearms Safety Committee wrapped up its work last week with a draft set of rules for the Orange County Board of Commissioners to consider.
The proposed rules will be presented for public hearings and a vote. Those meetings have not been scheduled.
The two-page draft makes rule violations a Class 3 civil misdemeanor subject to a $500 fine and also requires:
▪ A natural or constructed backstop “adequate to stop the projectile”
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▪ A shooter to discharge a firearm with regard for the safety of others
▪ A shooting to discharge a firearm in a way that ensures the projectile stays on the property
▪ A person discharging a firearm onto another person’s property to have written permission at the time of discharge and present it to any investigating officer
▪ Making it unlawful to shoot after consuming alcohol or another impairing substance
The rules would not prevent someone from firing a weapon to defend a person or property, or when used under direction from law enforcement officers. They also don’t apply to hunting, which is regulated by the state, or to firearms rules within town limits.
The commissioners appointed the 15-member Firearms Safety Committee this spring to address firearms safety and noise without intruding on private rights.
The decision followed a contentious public hearing at which some rural residents said most could not meet proposed acreage or backstop requirements, and that their Second Amendment rights were being infringed. The staff-proposed rules also called for sign requirements and weekly limits on sport shooting.
Sheriff’s Office statistics show calls about sustained gunfire have fallen from 60 in 2012 to one last year and five so far this year. There have been no gun-related fatalities or personal injuries – outside of criminal activity – since 2013 and only three reports of minor property damage.
The committee has been working since June, largely unnoticed until some residents raised questions this fall about a potential conflict of interest involving a member whose neighborhood had issues a few years ago with a neighbor’s shooting range.
There were seven county officials – in advisory roles – on the committee and eight voting members who are rural landowners.
Six voting members were gun owners, two of whom were National Rifle Association members and three of whom have taught firearms safety. Two other members have personal experience with gun safety issues, one of whom is a member of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.
Minutes from the Orange County Firearms Safety Committee’s meetings and a full draft of the proposed firearms rules can be found online at bit.ly/2cyahBO.