Gun restrictions fizzle in fiscal court

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By Elizabeth Troutman

Gun owners say a neighborhood gun scare is the classic city-meets-country scenario. In a developing county, where subdivisions often border farmland, the sound of gunshots stirs fear among residents. But gun enthusiasts reaffirmed their right to shoot near residential areas Tuesday after fighting a proposed ordinance to restrict use of firearms in the county. The ordinance needed approval from members of fiscal court, but none of the magistrates offered a motion to accept it. “City folks love to move out here to the countryside and still have the same laws they had in the city,” said J.D. Sparks, a volunteer for the National Rifle Association. About 20 residents spoke against an ordinance prohibiting gun use near residential areas. They argued local gun laws would discourage the use of firearms in a rural county and violate their constitutional rights. The ordinance, proposed by the safety committee, prohibited firing a gun within 300 feet of a building. It was drafted after magistrates received calls from neighbors complaining of gunshots fired in subdivisions. Barry Laws, owner of OpenRange in Crestwood, said state laws already protect residents from gun use. He believes limiting the space where gun owners can shoot is irrational and will hurt firearm sports. Laws said he asked Oldham County Police Chief Michael Griffin about the reports from residents. He said Griffin couldn’t recall any reports of guns being misfired in neighborhoods. “I thought I’d hear stories of the Wild West,” Laws said. Laws said he believes the proposed ordinance is based on a handful of calls from residents upset by neighbors. He said most gun owners are trained in gun safety. “This ordinance does meet my definition of unreasonable and should not become a law,” he said. Jackie Clauser, a resident of Crystal Lake, said gunshots in her neighborhood put her family at risk. She told members of fiscal court she’s witnessed a gun owner use a gun to frighten children. “You have to have laws to protect us, to protect our kids,” Clauser said. Magistrate Bob Deibel chairs the safety committee and said the ordinance was intended to provide residents protection from irresponsible gun owners. Deibel, a gun owner, said a vast majority of gun owners in the county use their guns responsibly, but he’s worried an irresponsible gun owner may cause harm in neighborhoods. “What do we do for the people as we grow in this county when less than one percent of the people are not doing the right thing?” he said. John Fendley, Oldham County attorney, said residents who endanger the lives of others by aiming or firing a gun in a harmful manner can be arrested for disorderly conducted or wanton endangerment. He urged residents threatened by gun users to report specific incidents to OCPD. “We have sufficient criminal legislation that will address these issues,” he said.

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