03/09/11 — Johnston takes aim at some gunfire

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Johnston takes aim at some gunfire

By From staff reports
Published in News on March 9, 2011 1:46 PM

SMITHFIELD -- Johnston County commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance Monday that will restrict the use of firearms in an attempt to shield county residents from stray gunfire.

The law applies to areas outside municipal boundaries but includes extraterritorial jurisdictions.

The ordinance makes it unlawful for a person to discharge a weapon "carelessly and heedlessly, so as to endanger any person or property."

It also makes it illegal for anyone to fire across a property line without the permission of the property owner, or to discharge a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

Residents also cannot fire across a public street or highway, and the ordinance makes it illegal to shoot "from two hours after sunset to one hour before sunrise."

Law enforcement officers are exempted from the regulation. Also exempt is the use of a firearm for killing "any dangerous or destructive animal or reptile when necessary to protect life or property."

Other exceptions includes hunters who are following state law, people taking training lessons at a ""bona fide" training facility," indoor shooting ranges and non-profit fundraisers such as turkey shoots.

Penalties range from a fine of $100 and/or 30 days in jail for a first offense to a fine of up to $300 and/or 30 days in jail for a second offense within a year of the first.

The regulations also contain a section on loud and disturbing noises, making it illegal to create a "noise of such character, intensity and duration as to be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of any individual."

That includes "loud, boisterous or raucous language or shouting," loud horns or signaling devices, barking dogs, vehicles "so out of repair, so loaded or in such a manner as to create loud grating, grinding, rattling or other noise."

It also specifically refers to "the playing of any radio, television set, record player, musical instrument or sound-producing or sound-amplifying device in such manner or with such volume, particularly, but not limited to, the hours between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of persons of normal sensibilities in any dwelling, motel, hotel or other type of residence."

Wayne County commissioners considered a similar firearms ordinance years ago but were met with strong opposition from gun owners in the county.

The current board of commissioners is considering amending its noise ordinance with an eye toward making it more enforceable. It currently is too vague to be enforced, county officials have said.

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said an ordinance similar to what has been passed in Johnston County would be of assistance to the Sheriff's Office in Wayne County.

"Maybe this is something the commissioners want to consider," Winders said. "We get a number of calls every single week of complaints from citizens of shooting at night and near their property, in high residential and rural areas."

Winders said many county residents are not aware that it is lawful to have homemade firing ranges on private residences, as long as projectiles do not go onto neighbors' properties.

He said firearm restrictions in Goldsboro might play out differently in the county.

"The city has (a stricter gun ordinance), and they can have it because there is no hunting in the city," he said.

If an ordinance is passed in Wayne County, Winders said he would expect backlash from citizens who want to own guns for protection and from hunters.

He said the new law in Johnston County sounds good, but the best bet is to wait and see how the issue develops.

"We will have to see how it is tested out in court because people do have Second Amendment rights," Winders said.