The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has set a public hearing for Thursday, August 5 to listen to input on potential changes to the county’s gun ordinances.

Even though those changes under consideration are being billed as “minor” safety-related changes, some gun owners in Guilford County don’t like the fact that the new Democratic-majority Board of Commissioners is even opening a door that has been closed for over 35 years.

One gun owner and gun rights advocate, former Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson, said this week that he’s concerned that the current board feels compelled to take a new look at the county’s gun ordinances.  Branson said he knows of many others with the same worries.

The proposed changes would do things like increase required distances between shooters and people and livestock in the potential line of fire.  For instance, shooters may be required to maintain a greater distance from adjoining property or establish a berm behind targets when target shooting.  The Guilford County commissioners haven’t adopted any changes yet, however, they’re expected to do so sometime after hearing public input on August 5.

Branson said he’s hearing concern from fellow gun owners

“I’m all for safety,” said Branson, the former District 4 Republican commissioner who was replaced on the board in the November 2020 election by Democrat Mary Beth Murphy.

Branson added quickly that, despite favoring safety, many gun owners he’s spoken with don’t trust the current board – with a 7-to-2 Democratic majority – not to put the camel’s nose under the gun ordinance tent.  The county’s gun laws have remained the same since the mid 1980s and have hardly been discussed in the past two decades.

Branson said the current board led by Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston has made a number of highly questionable decisions in its first seven months in charge of the county.  He said a recent board decision to spend nearly $2 million on a poorly defined COVID-19 “call center” and outreach plan was just the latest in a line of head-scratching decisions.

Branson said he expects that a good number of gun owners will show up at the hearing to express their thoughts.

Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne and other county officials said that the decision to beef up the safety requirements in the gun ordinances came after several events related to bullets striking unintended targets – such as a man on the patio at Sedgefield Country Club.

 Payne said he’s aware that any change at all in gun laws can be contentious, but he said the changes now under consideration are simply common-sense safety tweaks meant to encourage responsible gun use rather than to restrict gun rights in any way.

Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad, who voted against holding a public hearing on the matter, said existing North Carolina laws already address the issues of concern, and, therefore, Conrad said, changes in the county’s laws are unnecessary.