The city attorney has told the Sumter City Council it may not be able to ban concealed weapons from city parks.
The council wanted to discuss the issue after a man with a concealed weapons permit shot and killed a dog not on a leash that he said was aggressive toward him last month in Memorial Park near downtown Sumter.
The man was not charged, but some in the city wondered if it was safe to allow concealed guns in the park.
The Sumter Item reports that city attorney Eric Shytle found an opinion from the state attorney general’s office in 2010 saying local governments can’t pass laws that differ from state law on concealed weapons.
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Shytle says the opinion is not legally binding, but does shed light on how a court might interpret any new rules passed by the City Council.
The owner of the Rottweiler mix was sitting nearby when the dog was shot on July 24. Police didn’t charge the shooter because he owned the gun legally and said the dog was being aggressive. City parks do require all dogs be on a leash.
The attorney general’s opinion was sought by Oconee County in 2009 when officials wanted to ban concealed weapons from a recreation area on Lake Hartwell. The opinion said while private property owners can ban weapons, it appeared local governments couldn’t do anything that would supersede state law.
Mayor Joe McElveen said one possibility might be to use a current ordinance that mirrors state law in banning weapons from public buildings and extend the language to popular parks that adjoin the public facilities.
McElveen also pointed out the shooting might not have happened if the current rules were followed.
“We try to make our parks safe. There are very few incidents in our parks,” the mayor said. “The situation that happened was very unfortunate, but the dog was not on a leash, and if the law had been followed, it might have been avoided.”