Dealing with clear and present dangers in Brunswick County

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

I have observed an increasing number of dead deer along side of the rural and city roadways of Brunswick County lately.

Deer crossing our roadways into the path of oncoming cars and the hunters lurking in the bushes waiting to shoot them pose clear and present dangers to nearby residents of Brunswick County.

October, November and December are filled with car versus deer accidents because of the deer migrating and their mating season. Damage to your car can cost as much as $5,000 according to a Shallotte body shop. Newer cars’ front ends are largely plastic and shatter easily.

The National Highway Traffic Accident Administration Web site, deer-car article, indicates there are about “1.5 million car accidents with deer each year resulting in $1 billion in vehicle damage, about 150 human fatalities, and [more than] 10,000 personal injuries” nationwide.

Along with the increased presence of deer comes the frightening noise of discharging guns inside and near the residential areas of Brunswick County. My home and family are among the many in this unfortunate category.

Humans may become an endangered species.

We can modify our driving habits and thus reduce the chances of damage to our cars. The incidents of gunfire near our homes must be reported to our law enforcement agencies.

Defensive driving tips

•Reduce the speed of your car at night. Every 5 miles per hour slower decreases the amount of damage that will result from a collision.

•Use high beams when driving in deer territory to illuminate deer near the roadway. Proceed with extreme caution.

•Sometimes a collision is unavoidable. Swerving to avoid it may result in leaving the roadway and winding upside down in the ditch, hitting a tree or swerving into an oncoming car.

If possible, select a route that deer and large animals do not frequent at night.

Common sense gun safety

During 2003-2004, my neighbors, wife and I were fed up with the noise of big guns being discharged in and near our neighborhood. Some were firing on full automatic.

After writing a series of articles in The Brunswick Beacon, we appeared before Brunswick County Commissioners with our concerns. The hearing was packed with complainants and colorful gun enthusiasts. It was a memorable evening.

Some of the complainants had photographs of bullet holes in their homes. The commissioners sat stoically, sensing a great controversy.

We hoped for an ordinance prohibiting the discharge of a gun within or near a residential neighborhood.

What we got is the birth of common sense among some of the gun enthusiasts. Since then, a lot of the shooting stopped. However, we still hear some of it nearby.

A .22-caliber long rifle bullet can carry a distance of a mile. It is the pip-squeak of the cartridges in use. Bullets and arrows are lethal.

Shooting a gun near a residential area imparts considerable civil and criminal liability to the shooter. A .30-caliber bullet can easily pass through a mobile home. Shotgun pellets can put out an eye.

The sheriff speaks for all of us

Recently, Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram was invited to speak before The Chapel of Holden Beach Men’s Fellowship. He briefed us on the high impact proactive new programs the department has started since he has recently taken office.

Aside, I spoke with the sheriff directly about what to expect from his department when they receive a 911 call pertaining to the noise of gun(s) being discharged in or near a residential neighborhood.

Sheriff Ingram said his deputies would be dispatched to investigate all reports of gunfire.

Facts regarding the location, vehicle(s), person(s) shooting, and where the bullet(s) are terminating are very helpful to the responding deputies. Give them something they can work with.

Once on the scene, the deputies will contact the shooter(s) and determine the facts surrounding the incident. If there is a violation of law, appropriate action will be taken.

I note a “man with a gun” call is a dangerous priority assignment for police officers to investigate. The mere report of the sound of gunfire raises a lot of important questions in the minds of responding officers.

They often wear bullet-resistant body armor for good reasons.

Furthermore, these calls for service require the assignment of an immediate backup officer for the sake of the assigned officer’s survival. The call must be closely supervised and monitored by the watch commander because the situation may quickly become deadly.

Safe shooting

I am reminded of the lines of “The Arrow and the Song” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow;

“I shot an arrow into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow it in its flight.” ee

The use of bows and arrows is silent—guns are not.

While the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to bear arms, civil and criminal laws hold us accountable for the safe flight and final destination of arrows and bullets.

Safe shooting is a matter of practicing common sense. The sheriff noted there are several gun ranges available in Brunswick County.

We pray shooters will uphold their end of the bargain this year.

John Heidtke has served with municipal, county, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies since 1963.