Any time government alters gun laws, it gets a reaction.

There’s no doubt that many gun advocates and gun opponents in Guilford County will want to provide input on the Board of Commissioners’ next move in that regard. 

On Thursday, July 15, the commissioners took the first step toward changing the county’s current gun ordinances by voting to approve a public hearing in August on changes recommended by staff.

Some of the changes that staff will bring to the Board of Commissioners are the result of gun-related events in the county in recent months.  For instance, earlier this year a man was hit – likely accidentally –  by a bullet from a distant unknown shooter while the victim was dining on the patio at Sedgefield Country Club.  In another incident, a home was struck by bullets from someone target shooting on adjacent property.  The public hearing will be a time when the commissioners can hear other concerns about gun use in the county as well as hear responses from gun rights advocates.

Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne told the board that several recent events led staff to recommend changes to existing gun laws.  Payne said the effort wasn’t meant to restrict gun use but, instead, to promote responsible gun use.

The county’s gun ordinances haven’t changed since the mid-1980s.

Payne and Guilford County Sherriff’s Department Attorney Jim Secor have been drafting new ordinances.

No document with the proposed changes has been released by the county yet, however, there seems to be a focus on making target shooting safer.  Payne told the board that one change would call for an increase in the required safe distance zone between a target shooter and an adjoining property.  There could also be a change, Payne said, that requires a berm or other barrier behind the targets to prevent bullets from reaching unintended targets.

Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad said after the meeting that, based on what he’s heard so far, he doesn’t believe the changes are necessary.   He said there are already state laws that make it illegal to shoot a gun in a manner that will allow bullets to hit someone’s house or jeopardize distant bystanders.

Conrad said he never likes “feel-good” legislation that doesn’t truly address any needs.  He said all the concerns he’s heard from county staff at this point could be addressed by simply enforcing existing laws and, therefore, he sees no reason to alter the current set of ordinances.