Members of the community packed the room and overflowed into the hallway at the Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday to participate in discussing a policy the county is considering that would regulate the discharge of firearms.
Before the commissioners opened the floor to public comment, they voted to rename the Central Orange Senior Center to the Jerry M. Passmore Center.
Commissioner Earl McKee said without Passmore’s involvement in the senior center, it would not have been nearly as successful.
The board also voted on a resolution to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day annually on Oct. 2.
They hope to be in agreement with all local governments in the area, including Orange County, Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough.
The Board of Commissioners then opened the floor for public comment on an amendment proposed, which would place restrictions on the discharge of firearms.
The amendment includes a restriction only allowing the discharge of firearms from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., prohibits the discharge of firearms within certain distances of property lines and dwelling structures and requires most discharged firearms to be directed into a projectile-proof backstop.
Most community members expressed their desire for the board to reject the amendment entirely, but others said they thought some regulation was needed, although not as restrictive as the current amendment.
Over 36 Orange County residents signed up to speak on this issue, all of them disagreeing with the proposed amendment.
Most individuals expressed their disapproval of this proposed amendment, saying the restrictions were extremely unreasonable for the average Orange County resident who wanted to target shoot on their property.
Scott Jens, a retired Chapel Hill police officer, did not support the proposed restriction for safety reasons.
Jens said the resident is the first line of defense for a crime in the county until deputies arrive.
Jens also said he was concerned about the possibility that lower-income residents could not afford to build buffers as large as the dimensions laid out in the amendment.
Several farm owners were concerned about being able to shoot varmints that may be dangerous to their animals, crops or children.
Many other residents said guns are an important part of rural Orange County culture.
Several parents said they feel they have a responsibility to teach their children, and others in the community, how to use a firearm responsibly and safely.
All commissioners said they think the amendment is not practical for gun owners, but they still need to find a way to address several complaints made by residents against irresponsible gun use in their neighborhoods.
“If we need an ordinance, let’s make it a reasonable one,” Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier said.
The board voted unanimously to create a firearms safety board to expand the conversation on this issue, and to reject the ordinance.
The Orange Water and Sewer Authority gave an annual update to inform the board of the status of the design of the sewer system for the Rogers Road neighborhood, as well as potential implementation of an AMI system that would be much more efficient and provide more information to both OWASA and the customer. The new system is projected to be implemented in the next two to three years and would cost about $5.7 million. It would not raise the rates for consumers.
“This makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine,” Orange County resident Charlie Brown said, regarding the planning committee of the proposed firearms regulation amendment.
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