So this evening I open my snail mail and one of the pieces lovingly addressed to me (or current resident) is a fundraising letter of some sort from the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, Sheriff Richard H. Webster - President:
* * * URGENT * * * URGENT * * * URGENT * * * URGENT * * *
Dear Knitebane (well, close enough),
As a Johnston County resident, I need your immediate support to provide desperately needed resources for all our sheriffs and deputies to continue education and training programs, as well as fighting for strong laws in the General Assembly to keep you and your family safe.
At this point I started to get pissed off. LAWS DON'T KEEP ANYONE SAFE YOU IDIOT! LAWS PROVIDE PUNISHMENT FOR PEOPLE WHO BREAK THEM. THEY ARE ENTIRELY REACTIVE. My locks, alarm, dogs and firearms keep my family safe. Hmmm, maybe they need that education and training if they don't know this already. I recall my one brush with our local deputies after our (thankfully mostly empty) house got burgled. Sez he, "Looks like you got robbed! You should git a gun."
And for this I pay taxes?
For just 7¢ a day for the next year ($25) you can
confirm your commitment as an Honorary Citizen Member of the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association help feed a hungry deputy.
Ok, I made that last part up because that's when I started hearing Sarah Mclachlan singing and visualized weepy puppies.
So they want money from me, do they? The very same North Carolina Sheriffs' Association that wanted access to state computer records identifying anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled substances?
You know, hardcore dangerous drugs like Ambien? That group?
The same North Carolina Sheriffs' Association that in 2009, pressured the North Carolina State Legislature to pull S782, the bill to kill of the Jim Crow era pistol purchase permit?
ANYONE affiliated with that bunch of gun grabbing racists can stuff it. Sadly, my county sheriff, Steve Bizzell, seems to be okay being associated with this bunch of statists. His is the signature at the bottom of the insipid thing.
Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel
And I responded thusly:
I don't have a problem with what you suggesting that I read the whole thing but rather with the way you suggested it along with the remarks you made earlier at the working group. I guess an apology is not forthcoming.
G.S. 14-409.40 puts limits on the power of local authorities to put restrictions on firearms. This is not in dispute.
The rest of the section includes certain exceptions. It appears in the referral to G.S. 153A-129 that you do have the authority to regulate some restrictions. I think there's plenty of room to argue that constitutionally, you don't. Those exceptions were put in quite a while ago. The national trend is against allowing local authorities to trump civil rights.
The real question is this: Why are you so determined to find out?
Wouldn't it be better for everyone if you just fixed the problem at hand, namely negligent gunfire, rather than trying to turn all of Johnston County into Cary?
CC: The Usual Suspects
My emailed response to Chairman Mims:
In light of your disparaging public comments concerning bloggers during the working group such a dismissive response is not entirely unexpected but still one generally sees more civil behavior in a public servant. I find it regrettable that you should take such a tone with a constituent. As a veteran I find such behavior distasteful. As a tax payer I find it offensive.
What I'm seeing here is that you intend to pass something that restricts shooting no matter what. The presence of the chairman of the county commissioners as chair of the working group and even the name of the ordinance both smack of ideology-driven politics. Perhaps that is not actually the case, but often perception IS reality.
As commissioner from District 7, the vast majority of your direct constituents all live in incorporated areas, yet you are driving the agenda that will mostly effect the residents of the rural areas of the county.
Calling the law on a neighbor and threatening them with jail time is not how I act toward my neighbors when I have a dispute, yet this so-called "Good Neighbor" ordinance will provide for just that.
These acts are unfortunate and I'm disappointed that it appears that agenda is going to trump reason. The tone of your comments towards people that you purport to represent lends itself away from this merely being a perception problem.
I urge you to reconsider both your attitude toward your constituents and your drive to pass an ordinance which reaches beyond the actual protection of the residents of the county and reaches into infringement of the rights of the other residents.
In the final analysis, my opinion and your opinion won't matter. What will matter is the opinion of the judge that hears the arguments against this ordinance.
And I can assure you, Mr. Mims, if you go forward with passing a ban on shooting in Johnston County it will end up in front of a judge.
Please scale this proposal back to only being against negligence and noise and everyone will come out a winner. Go beyond that and many of your constituents will object loudly and they will fight an over-reaching government action in the courts.
In today's difficult financial times, Johnston County does not need to be involved in expensive legal issues. Likewise, my money and the money of those that will likely back a suit against an overly broad ordinance can be better spent elsewhere. I would rather see that money be used in places with much more onerous restrictions, but that's not within my power to decide.
You, Mr. Mims, as chairman of the county commissioners and as chair of the working group, have the authority to make this stop now. I urge you to do so.
Thank you for your time.
CC: my wife, Mr. Carver who graciously took time to meet with me and, of course, all the evil bloggers.
If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for the law. It invites every man to become a law unto himself. It invites anarchy.
In Johnston County, NC a working group has been put together to create a shooting ban. Its stated purpose is "to discuss the ordinance to see if changes can be made to address all concerned parties" rather than come right out and call it a shooting ban. Then again, old Billy said something like, "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
But this doesn't smell sweet. It smells like fertilizer.
They keep saying it's not a ban though.
That's not what I got out of the public meeting last night in Smithfield, NC. The gist of the meeting was that the participants were there to figure out how to properly spin the ban so that not too many people would object. One member of the group even trotted out the tired and over-played "for the children" routine.
Several people suggested that all that was needed was something to address the negligent discharge of weapons. The representative from the Johnston County Sheriff's Department, Buck Pipkin, said that there was no firearms negligence statute in North Carolina and therefore SOMETHING had to be done.
Except the rest of the meeting was taken up with the members of the working group trying to build up a document that would restrict when I could shoot targets. They threw in the usual sops to the police and the Elmer Fudds, but several times it was brought up that target shooting, including night shooting, would be adversely affected. Those concerns were not taken very seriously.
The general tone was that something was going to be passed that restricted shooting. Taking that off the table was not an option.
Today I've swapped some messages with two of the Johnston County commissioners, Allan Mims and Jeff Carver, that are on the working group. Referencing the comments about the lack of a negligence statute I sent this:
Last evening we were told at the working group meeting that there was currently no statute that covers the discharge of a firearm onto someone else's property and that the sheriff's department routinely tells people that there was nothing they can do about it. A quick search of NC state laws turns up this:
§ 14-34.1. Discharging certain barreled weapons or a firearm into occupied property.
(a) Any person who willfully or wantonly discharges or attempts to discharge any firearm or barreled weapon capable of discharging shot, bullets, pellets, or other missiles at a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second into any building, structure, vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or other conveyance, device, equipment, erection, or enclosure while it is occupied is guilty of a Class E felony.
(b) A person who willfully or wantonly discharges a weapon described in subsection (a) of this section into an occupied dwelling or into any occupied vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or other conveyance that is in operation is guilty of a Class D felony.
(c) If a person violates this section and the violation results in serious bodily injury to any person, the person is guilty of a Class C felony. (1969, c. 341; c. 869, s. 7; 1979, c. 760, s. 5; 1979, 2nd Sess., c. 1316, s. 47; 1981, c. 63, s. 1; c. 179, s. 14; c. 755; 1993, c. 539, s. 1141; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 2005-461, s. 1.)
It appears to me that enforcement of this statute plus a minor update to the Johnston County noise ordinance ought to be sufficient to cover the majority of complaints that the Commissioners receive.
I am somewhat troubled by the comments of Mr. Scott Andrews last night. If his recollection of the incident is accurate, the Johnston County Sheriff's Department has not been enforcing state law.
I'm also concerned as to why Mr. Pipkin stated that there was no statute that currently covers firearm discharge. I'd be interested in your thoughts on this matter.
I received this reply from Allan Mims, the chairman of both the Johnston County Commisioners and the working group:
Until last night I was of the same opinion as you about this law, but the problem I heard last night was proving it was willful and wanton and not just accidental by just missing a target or having an insufficient back stop. I heard we have no law for that and I heard NC did not have a careless and reckless endangerment law. I was not able to hear all of Mr. Andrews comment as several people started talking at the same time.Thanks for your email and last nights attendance.
Interesting. My response:
Pulling the trigger is very much a willful act. This appears more of a refusal to act by the sheriff's department upon existing state law than a need for a county ordinance. But no matter. There is another section of state law that also has a bearing on this.
§ 14-409.40. Statewide uniformity of local regulation.
(a) It is declared by the General Assembly that the regulation of firearms is properly an issue of general, statewide concern, and that the entire field of regulation of firearms is preempted from regulation by local governments except as provided by this section.
That's right. North Carolina has a preemption law regarding firearms. Local governments are prohibited from passing laws that are stricter than the state if they have to do with firearms. There are some broad exceptions like county buildings and zoning for shooting ranges, but the statute is very clear.
The response I get:
Will get legal counsel involved tomorrow!
Swell. What a wonderful use of tax dollars.
If they want to create an ordinance that says that negligently shooting a gun, running a lawnmower, driving an ATV or other outdoor activity that causes harm to a person or damage to property will get you a fine, I'm okay with that. If they want to include gun shots along with boom boxes and leaf blowers in the "no loud sounds after 11pm" ordinance, I'm okay with that too.
But I'm not okay with them targeting firearms. And neither is the State of North Carolina.
They could just stop this foolishness and go do something useful (like catch the firebug that's burned down three dozen houses in the county) but they'd rather spend time and money (MY MONEY!) on this.
Yeah, it's not about restricting guns. Sure. Gonna sell me a bridge too?
There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.
HERE is the "revised" version of the Johnston County North Carolina proposed anti-gun ordinance.
Here the response I mailed to the Johnston County commisioners:
I am in opposition to this ordinance.
After reading both the initial ordinance and this revised version, I am even more in opposition to the idea of an ordinance on this subject no matter what minor adjustments are made to it.
This ordinance is wrong and wrong-headed. We have been reassured that this measure will not affect those that act responsibly with guns. For almost 80 years the gun owners of the United States have repeatedly been told that. Those that insist that these measures are necessary always say that. They insist that they are well-meaning. They tell us that the laws will only apply to "them," not "us."
Well I know one "them" that it most certainly applies to. That them is me.
The proposed ordinance states: "It shall be unlawful for any person to utilize a firearm in the county carelessly and heedlessly, so as to endanger any person or property, or discharge a firearm that results in a projectile crossing the property of another person without their permission, or utilize a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance."
A controlled substance.
Seems benign enough, right? After all, we wouldn't want hopped up meth heads or heroin junkies shooting guns.
And I note that there exceptions for law enforcement, self-defense, turkey shoots. Fair enough.
But no exemption for target practice on my own land.
Got a family member on hormone replacement therapy? Sorry, no shooting for you, testosterone is a controlled substance.
Got a friend with a bout of diarrhea? Too bad, Paragoric and Lomotil are controlled substances.
Depression? Sorry, Xanax, Valium and Zoloft are controlled substances.
Had trouble getting to sleep last night? Too bad Ambien is a controlled substance.
What about your nephew? Want to invite him over and teach him to shoot? Sorry, he's got ADD. Ritalin and Focalin are controlled substances.
I have a rather chronic sinus problem. Today I felt some sinus pressure so I took a 12-hour Sudafed.
It's an over-the-counter, non-prescription medication and is quite legal to take.
But now I can't shoot because North Carolina considers Sudafed a precursor for meth and regulates its sale. It's a controlled substance too.
So that leaves me out too. It appears that I'm the "them" that you don't want to shoot guns.
"But that's not what we meant!" will come the protest.
Maybe so, gentlemen, but that's what you wrote. Even if I give the platitudes about how this isn't an anti-gun ordinance any credence.
Which I don't.
Because while it may not be named the "The Anti-Undesirable, Anti-Target Practice Ordinance" or the "Keeping Our Neighbors From Being Well Regulated" that's exactly how it will be interpreted and acted upon.
So count me out.
I can't support ANY ordinance that attempts to regulate who shoots on my property. ANY attempt to do so will have unintended consequences. I've just pointed out that very fact in this draft. Why should anyone think that any other ordinance will be any better?
And I'm not even an activist judge. I've only pointed out the logical fallacies in this document. Someone less interested in the written document and more interested in discovering a "spirit" against shooting will have much to work with.
While I concede that a bullet leaving my property and hurting a person or damaging property is my responsibility, I do NOT concede that this ordinance is the answer. Shooting a neighbor or punching holes in his house, car or dog is already both illegal and civilly actionable.
This ordinance will only do what? Make it "more illegal-er-est"? "Double secret illegalness"? And at the same time be a nice back door into what I can do on my property and with whom and at what time? And make me responsible for where my bullet MIGHT go? Leave it up to some bureaucrat to decide what "heedlessly" means?
I don't think so. Wrong and wrong headed, gentlemen.
Gun issues are a litmus test for politicians. Those that mean to serve have no fear of what their neighbors are doing with their guns. Those that mean to rule are constantly concerned on that very issue.
So cast your votes. We will be watching. And we will remember in the next election cycle.
Thank you for your time.
A reminder that the Restore the Constitution Rally in Greensboro will be held on August 14th, 2010.
Mrs. Knitebane and I will both be attending.