Many residents of Fredonia filed into the Mason County Commissioners' Court meeting on Monday to make their voices heard concerning their worries about unregulated discharges of firearms in the small community.
Sheriff Buster Nixon explained to the Court that his office has received numerous calls and complaints about windows being shot out, about random discharges of firearms from vehicles and four wheelers; and, about a pervasive fear of unregulated discharge of firearms expressed by numerous residents of Fredonia. Those residents in attendance on Monday confirmed Sheriff Nixon's assertions.
The Sheriff explained that the City of Mason has an ordinance regulating the discharge of firearms inside the city limits. However, in the county, the only way such a restriction could be enacted is if the unincorporated community has a recorded plat outlining the boundaries of that community, and thus describing the area where the restriction would be in force.
County Attorney Shain Chapman told the Court that he had not had a great deal of time to look at the situation adequately; but, told them that if there is no platting available, the remedies available to the County would be very limited.
In response to an audience member's question about laws regarding minors and firearms, Mr. Chapman explained that there are no laws restricting the possession or use of firearms by minors. He did, however, point out to the crowd that there were numerous laws already on the books regarding discharge of firearms from public roadways, or across those same roadways. He offered that, even in town where discharge rules are on the books, street lights still get shot out and other infractions occur that have escaped enforcement.
Commissioner Will Frey stated that, "You can pass a law; but, someone will have to catch them."
Sheriff Nixon explained that when his office receives a complaint call, by the time they are able to make the trip out to Fredonia, the perpetrators have already slipped away. He suggested that until those calling in complaints are able to file formal complaints identifying those who are discharging their firearms in a reckless manner, there is very little his office can do.
Several residents voiced a concern that the parents of the minors involved need to take a more proactive role in making sure their children aren't part of the problem. Mr. Chapman noted that the County is not able to police the parenting skills of other county residents, nor do they wish to enter that territory.
When one of the Fredonia residents asked if they could form a Neighborhood Watch program, Judge Jerry Bearden and Sheriff Buster Nixon both agreed that such a move could be a great first step in finding a solution to this problem. Sheriff Nixon offered to provide the Fredonia residents with the information they might need to form such an association; but, Commissioner Frey cautioned all present to make sure they were seeking a common solution, not beginning a "witch hunt" to go after a few individuals.
Mr. Chapman will report back to the Court at the next meeting on August 19 as to the feasibility of the County being able to move forward on any additional legal measures.