With the growing number of housing developments in Columbia County, the buffer between front yards and rural areas suited for target practice is getting smaller in some spots.
Jimmie Bowden and Gary Rausch spoke at a Columbia County Board of Commissioners meeting Nov. 18 to protest a turkey shoot taking place each Friday and Saturday through Christmas next to their Grovetown subdivision.
"It is literally about 50 yards from by back door," Rausch said. "Who's to say that if one of their guns are loaded, and they drop one, or their kid drops one, if might fire a round off toward one of the houses?"
Though the use of firearms is prohibited inside the city limits of Grovetown and Harlem, there are very few restrictions on the use of guns in rural areas.
State law forbids the use of a firearm for target shooting and hunting purposes within 150 feet of a public road or on public property without permission. Federal law states that shooting guns is unlawful within 1,000 feet of a school.
Ken Hitchcock helps his son Jamie, 9, of Grovetown, during the Grovetown Lions Club Turkey Shoot on Saturday.
Photo by Donnie Fetter
On Nov. 9, a 10-year-old boy was shot in the face while playing on the Riverside Elementary School playground. Police believe the bullet came from a .22 rifle being used by a pair of juveniles target-shooting a quarter-mile away.
The boy suffered only a superficial wound, and the incident was ruled an accidental shooting with no charges filed.
The child wasn't seriously injured, but some believe more restrictions should be placed on anyone using a firearm.
"I'm virtually certain there's nothing other than what the state or federal laws may say regarding firearms," said Columbia County Attorney Doug Batchelor. "There may be some ordinance that says something about it, but, basically, it's not restricted."
That's not good enough for Rausch, who said he believes his rights are being violated.
"What kills me about it is we're homeowners. We were here first," he said. "It seems like we should be able to have some say in what's going on around our neighborhood. What we're being told, basically, is that we don't."
Rausch lives in the recently constructed Main Street subdivision on the outskirts of Grovetown on the Harlem-Grovetown Highway. The turkey shoot is being held next to that subdivision and the Senators Ridge development.
The turkey shoot is a fund-raiser for the Grovetown Lions Club, with the money raised being used to support causes such as United We Care food pantry, charities for the blind and scholarships.
"I don't see how we could make it any safer," said Lions Club president and Grovetown City Councilman David Daughtry. "We pass out one shell at a time. We have a safety officer with that shooter, and while he shoots nothing else happens. We're surrounded by woods on three sides in the direction that we're firing, and we're shooting short-range birdshot."
Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said that until laws are enacted to stop the use of firearms, he encourages shooters to take all possible safety precautions.
"All shooters hope they hit what they're aiming at when they pull the trigger," he said. "Safe shooters also consider where their shot might go if they miss or it ricochets."
Morris said awareness of the surroundings and the range of the weapon are the primary factors a shooter should consider before pulling the trigger.
"Columbia County is developing more and more in rural areas," Morris said. "You have more of a mixture of hunters and residents now, which is dangerous."
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