Dorchester County Council strikes down gun ordinance

ST. GEORGE, S.C. (WCIV) -- An ordinance that would have made it illegal to shoot a gun in a subdivision was voted down at Monday night's Dorchester County Council meeting.

The vote was the last of three. The first two readings had passed but this time, those against the new law had the National Rifle Association behind them.

The lobbying group, established in 1975 to protect Second Amendment rights launched an email campaign opposing the new ordinance that Councilman Larry Hargett says had nothing to do with gun ownership.

An 'alert' released by the NRA stated:

"It is critical that the Dorchester County Council hear from safe, responsible gun owners and sportsmen who oppose this poorly crafted ordinance."

Hargett SAYS the ordinance was misunderstood and the anti-gun sentiment was "blown way out of proportion."

"This is a public safety issue, nothing more," he said.

When critics argued that the law would infringe on their rights to protect themselves, council added an amendment to the ordinance:

Following the second reading of this ordinance on Monday, September 17, 2012, in Summerville, several citizens have expressed concerns that the ordinance will infringe upon their rights to protect themselves and their property. {}In an effort to clear up any concerns regarding self defense, the following amendment to the ordinance has been prepared for County Council's consideration prior to giving the third reading:

"The prohibitions of this Ordinance shall in no way be construed to prevent a person from discharging a firearm in defense of his person, others, or his property as specifically provided in the exclusion contained in S.C. Code Ann. Sec. 23-31-510(2) or as may otherwise be allowed by law."

Hargett says even the Dorchester County sheriff has told him multiple times that a law needed to be on the books to protect residents in subdivisions.

That proposed law was voted down 2-4. Councilmen Larry Hargett and David Chinnis were the only ones who voted in favor of the ordinance.

Hargett said most, if not all, other local municipalities have ordinances against firing the gun within city limits. As of now, the Dorchester County ordinance is dead and there is no plan to reword, clarify or bring it back.