Tragedy averted here but not there

Published 6:49 pm Friday, January 3, 2020

This week, tragedy struck in South Carolina. A father and his 9-year-old daughter were hunting near their home in Walterboro. Their movements were mistaken for deer and both were shot and killed by another group of hunters.

It was not clear whether any of the hunters were wearing the blaze orange known as “safety orange” at the time of the incident. It is clear that no tragedy like this should occur.

Also this week, a nurse in Houston, Texas, was shot and killed by a stray, celebratory bullet shot off in a suburban neighborhood as the clock struck midnight, heralding in a new year.

Some would say that type of thing wouldn’t happen here, but on several occasions over the last few years, it nearly has happened. A bullet with a slightly different trajectory would in these cases would have meant tragedy, right here at home.

In 2016, some Beaufort County residents, many who were hunters themselves, petitioned the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to ban hunting with dogs, because of the damage it does to property. As an example of the type of damage, the Aurora man leading the effort showed pictures of a home’s siding punctured by bullet holes, saying the house had been shot on two separate occasions by hunters running dogs.

In 2017, a 13-year-old boy was visiting his grandfather in Beaufort County; the two had gone out on a boat and found a wooded area on the shoreline near Chocowinity where they were practicing shooting into the woods. However, they could not see the home behind the trees, and the homeowner was essentially dodging bullets in his backyard. He tried yelling, but when that didn’t work, he then fired a couple of warning shots to try to get their attention — one of those bullets ricocheted off of the ground and water and hit the boy.

Just last month, in Chocowinity, a little girl was shot inside her home by a bullet that penetrated the home’s exterior wall. The bullet was thought to have come from someone shooting in the woods behind the house; no one has been identified as the shooter.

There are plenty of people out hunting this time of year in Beaufort County. An overwhelming majority are hyper-aware of their surroundings and observe all safety precautions. A small minority might need to be reminded.

As for shooting into the woods for the sake of shooting: law enforcement suggests some time at the shooting range would be more appropriate and less risky to home and health.