No shooting allowed in OC subdivision


Last updated 4/30/2012 at Noon

Maybe some residents in one Orange County subdivision may feel a little safer now that the commissioners' court passed an ordinance at their meeting Monday afternoon.

The ordinance dealt with prohibiting the discharge of firearms within the Quail Trails Estates Subdivisions 1, 2 and 3, off of FM 1442. Prior to the vote, a public hearing was held on the matter.

Karen Blanda lives on the back of the property in question. She spoke to the court and said she has had to call the Orange County Sheriff's Office a couple of times about the discharge of firearms.

"We have bullets skip across a 10 acre lake on our property," she said. "My husband and son water ski on it and I'm concerned about them getting hit."

Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton said the ordinance was a "very important" safety issue. He asked Sheriff Keith Merritt what kind of citation would people receive for discharging a firearm.

If there was an ordinance they would probably receive a Class C Misdemeanor. The commissioners were also concerned if residents would be in violation for discharging a firearm if they shot at a snake or squirrel from the yards.

Douglas Manning, assistant county attorney, answered cities can control firearms but counties cannot according to the Texas Local Government Code because counties do not have general police powers.

Judge Carl Thibodeaux said an ordinance wouldn't be necessary if shooters weren't careless with firearms.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jody Crump asked Merritt how many calls about shooting the OCSO received for Quail Trails Estates. Merritt replied they received five calls over six months. All the calls related to rabbit hunters or a resident shooting from their yard. None of the violators could be located.

Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose said law enforcement officials can use common sense when answering a call. For instance, if a resident shoots a snake in his yard.

Crump rhetorically asked what can the county gain with the OCSO going out four or five times on calls there.

Thibodeaux said if one person is not threatened by a stray bullet, that's the county's gain.

Clint Hodgkinson, chief deputy of the OSCO, said it's been his experience on most calls of this nature it's someone shooting targets without a backdrop. He added officers can't prove anything if they can't find the projectiles.

Manning advised the court in adopting an ordinance to do so not on their own accord, but adopting the ordinance on the basis the citizens want it.

"Government is best that regulates the least," Manning said.

Burton then asked if the ordinance should be adopted countywide. Manning said he was a firearm enthusiast and if the citizens of the subdivision wanted the ordinance, then the court should pass it for them and not all the county.

The final vote for approval was 3-1 with Crump voting no.

Crump said it's not a neighborhood issue when the sheriff's office only received five calls for Quail Trails Estates in six months.

"If we had an ordinance in place then, not much has been accomplished. The perpetrators were already gone when the deputies got there. People move to the county for freedom from the government," he said.

"You then have to asked yourself will the ordinance spread countywide? It's not against the law to discharge a firearm in the county."

Crump said it would be devastating if a bystander, particularly a young child, were to be hit by a wayward bullet, but he asked how many firearms are discharged in the county without an ordinance.

In other county business, Jeff Kelley, emergency management coordinator, said concrete will begin pouring at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning at the Shelter of Last Resort. Half of the roof will be poured and take six hours to complete. Also, the holes in the cinder block concrete walls are now being filled for reinforcement of the structure.

The commissioners approved advertising for proposals on the data, voice and Internet connectivity for the Shelter of Last Resort.

Thibodeaux said an added bonus is if the Internet goes down at the court house, the Internet at the Shelter can be used as a backup.

The county terminated its relationship with Discount Plumbing of Port Arthur for work left uncompleted.

Joel Ardoin with health and code compliance, said the business was doing sewer work in Country Estates in Bridge City.

A proclamation was read declaring Thursday, May 3 as "National Day of Prayer" in Orange County. The theme verse this year is Psalm 33:12 — Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.


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