WILLIAMSTON, SC – A town councilman in Williamston is drafting an ordinance that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to bring guns onto town property, including public parks.
If town council doesn’t pass the ordinance, Councilman Rockey Burgess says he will sue Williamston.
Burgess said he was approached by several constituents in August about “No Weapons Allowed” signs posted in several parks.
“Several people had asked me, ‘What’s the deal with the signs in the park?’’” Councilman Burgess told 7 News on Thursday.
The questions, he said, peaked his interest ad prompted him to look into state law about town gun policies.
He explained that he found proof in the legislation that states no town in South Carolina is allowed to tell people they can’t bring guns in parks and other town spaces, and that the decision is left up to the State.
Schools and other municipal buildings are among a few exceptions.
Below are the state regulations that Burgess referred to:(http://scstatehouse.gov/code/t23c031.php)
SC 23-31-510: ARTICLE 7Local Regulations
SECTION 23-31-510. Regulation of ownership, transfer, or possession of firearm or ammunition; discharge on landowner’s own property.
No governing body of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision in the State may enact or promulgate any regulation or ordinance that regulates or attempts to regulate:
(1) the transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, or any combination of these things; or(M) A permit issued pursuant to this section does not authorize a permit holder to carry a concealable weapon into a:
(1) law enforcement, correctional, or detention facility;
(2) courthouse or courtroom;
(3) polling place on election days;
(4) office of or the business meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special purpose district;
“In my opinion and the opinion of others, they’re unconstitutional,” Burgess said. “They’re illegal signs.”
Burgess is now drafting an ordinance that he says will force the town to comply with state law.
But not everyone is on board.
Williamston police are concerned about accidental shootings.
“We have parents and kids and loaded weapons in that area… Accidents can happen, things can happen,” said Police Chief Tony Taylor.
Police also said if there is ever an active shooter in one of these spaces, not everyone with a concealed weapons permit has enough experience to fire a weapon safely.
According to the town’s firearms instructor, if people did start firing at a shooter, it would be difficult for officials to distinguish them from the suspect.
“We’ll roll up and… Who’s the bad guy?” Jody Culbertson said.
Still, Burgess said he doesn’t see the move as a safety concern.
“If you look at statistics, you’re more likely to be injured by a police officer than a lawful CWP holder,” he said.
Williamston City Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance in January.