OC commissioners reverse ordinance on firerarms


Last updated 5/19/2012 at Noon

The Orange County Commissioners' Court repealed an ordinance at their Monday afternoon meeting they previously passed two weeks ago.

The court repealed an ordinance prohibiting the discharge of firearms within the Quail Trails Estates Subdivisions off of FM 1442. A public hearing was held prior to the regular session to receive input from residents.

Ronald Dischler is a Beaumont Police officer who lives in the subdivision and he teaches firearms instruction.

He doesn't understand why the commissioners' court passed an ordinance when state law already addresses the issue. Dischler said deadly conduct is a third degree felony in the Texas Penal Code.

He said the original complainants said bullets were skipping across the pond on the property, but there were no calls for service from the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Dischler added shots aren't coming from his property. The other neighbor has a long pipeline running through his property which would make gunfire from that direction unlikely. The third neighbor to the north has heavy brush and trees that would stop a bullet.

"That's why we purchased our property to be in the country," Dischler said. "Now you can't discharge a firearm without violating an ordinance. This turns citizens into criminals and keeps the sheriff busy."

Resident Tim Turley was in favor of the ordinance. He said one day he was cleaning his swimming pool when a stray bullet hit a nearby tree. Shortly thereafter, another bullet came close to hitting him.

"I don't want to change anyone's rights but we're too close to each other. I want to protect my family. I"m not against guns but there's not enough pieces of property between us," Turley said. "I told a neighbor not to shoot toward me. I made two calls to the sheriff's office. This is not a policing matter. They do a good job. If that bullet was four more inches, I wouldn't be here. The ordinance states I can protect my property."

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said it wasn't the county's intention to take away anyone's rights, or to protect their families or not to keep and bear arms.

Dischler said state law allows residents to contact the sheriff's office and file a deadly conduct charge if anyone is shooting at their property.

"The state address the discharge of a firearm in the city," he said.

Thibodeaux said the state statute directs commissioner courts can regulate firearms in rural subdivisions.

Dischler and Thibodeaux then got into a back and forth discussion on whether or not Quail Trails Estates was a subdivision or not. Dischler said Quail Trails Estates is not classified as a subdivision but as a mini ranchette community.

Thibodeaux said it is plainly platted as a subdivision. Dischler responded by saying the developer told him it is not a subdivision and he would had never bought property there if it was not in the country.

A petition was presented to the court with 90 signatures from residents in opposition to the ordinance. Three residents came forward two weeks ago with the original petition prohibiting the discharge of firearms.

Thibodeaux said he is charged with protecting the public safety. Dischler said the new ordinance won't make the subdivision any safer than the state's penal code.

Douglas Manning, assistant county attorney, said Orange County is not in the business of looking for subdivisions to enact this ordinance and everyone on the commissioners' court was pro-firearm.

Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose asked Manning about potential liabilities for the council. Manning answered the ordinance would be a discretionary act the county can take with no liability.

"You have sovereign immunity. You can't be sued," he said.

Subdivision resident Jean Turley said she called the OCSO when bullets were found in her son's yard. Deputies said there was nothing they could do when they arrived at his residence.

"if this (the ordinance) can save a life......" she said.

In other county business, a re-award for the installation of on-site sewage facilities or tie-ins in Bridge City and Orangefield was approved. Dubsoe said they need to get moving on this because his office is receiving many phone calls.

It was approved to change the northern 210 feet of Kinder Loop to Circle C Ranch Road for better identification of this road for 911 emergency responses and local deliveries.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton said no one resides on Circle C Ranch Road and the current signage is confusing to drivers. Two signs will be put up.

The court approved filling a vacant truck driver position to replace Thomas Reinhardt who retired in April.

With this position filled, Road and Bridge still have two available truck driving positions.

Sheriff Keith Merritt was authorized to construct a livestock holding facility 36 feet by 32 feet cover for holding livestock off FM 1442 on Trainer Road. Funding for this project will be paid out of the drug forfeiture account.

Merritt said the OCSO has been working several years in hopes building this and they own the land where it will be constructed.

Lastly, a proclamation was read declaring May 14 as Leadership Southeast Texas Day in Orange County.

Gisela Houseman, local LSET alum, accepted the proclamation. There were also roughly 20 other alums in the audience. It is the organization's 20th anniversary in Orange County.

"In order for Southeast Texas to continue to grow and thrive, it is imperative that communities appreciate how we can support each other and succeed together as a region," Thibodeaux said. "Orange County congratulates Leadership Southeast Texas as it celebrates its 20th year of existence and applauds its continuing efforts to promote cooperation and collaboration among current and future leaders of the region's counties and cities. LSET has identified and engaged leaders in our region for the past 20 years, and we are happy to recognize its membership for their contribution."

LSET added a new dimension in 2011 by initiating a Youth Leadership Southeast Texas program that has brought together more than 100 high school seniors to talk about how they can enhance their leadership skills and help improve their hometowns, Houseman said.


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