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Neighbors fire complaints at Johnston man for backyard shooting

Posted May 21, 2012

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— A Johnston County man has become the target of outrage in his neighborhood for using his backyard as a shooting range.

James Whitlock, who lives in the Oak Ridge subdivision outside Willow Spring, says he always fires his shotgun and 9mm handgun away from homes and toward the ground. He fires at targets from his second-floor window, he says.

But neighbors, one of whom told county officials that Whitlock and his wife fired 3,000 shots over a two-month period, say the shooting is noisy and that it raises safety concerns.

"Go to a shooting range, or go buy 30 acres in the country. This is a developed neighborhood," one angry neighbor told Whitlock, who recorded the exchange on his iPad.

Whitlock says he's respectful of the neighbors and that they should respect his freedom in return.

Johnston man defends backyard shooting Johnston man defends backyard shooting

"Usually I'll hear a lawnmower or I'll hear somebody else shooting. It's not like it's quiet and then I start shooting," he said Monday. "One of the reasons we moved to Johnston County was because of the freedom they have out here and the fair gun laws."

Johnston County sheriff's deputies have been dispatched to the home several times in response to neighbor complaints, but they say Whitlock isn't breaking any laws.

County attorney David Mills said he plans to meet with Whitlock to see if a compromise can be reached. In the meantime, he's looking into two county ordinances to determine whether Whitlock is violating them.

One firearms ordinance in Johnston County restricts shooting after dark and any firing that causes bullets to cross property lines. A separate noise ordinance restricts anything considered loud, frequent and unreasonable.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • corey3rd May 23, 2012

    Do you think this guy stands by the windows and fires his gun while his wife is working on one of her important legal cases or is on the phone with a client? Is that one of those times he puts down his gun like a good little boy not wanting to upset the breadwinner? I dare him to do target practice when she needs to focus on what pays the bills.

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter May 23, 2012

    "One of the major problems with the world today is the lack of courtesy and consideration of others"...

    I know that's right. I can't believe the nerve of these folks telling this man he cant shoot into the ground that he owns.

  • SetTheRecordStraight May 23, 2012

    flashbangu, that's a great question and in hindsight realize that we missed an opportunity. I'm not speaking for all of my neighbors but I'm going to hazard a guess. Though the the final version of the firearms ordinance was adopted March 7, 2011, the two meetings were in Jan11/Feb11 or Dec10/Jan11. As I recall we didn't start having a real problem with all of this shooting en masse until the summer or fall. We heard the shots but dealt with it. I would have to go through records of calls to verify this, but I remember personally thinking last fall man oh man, how I wish this had escalated a few months ago, or we would have attended those meetings. Knowing our neighbors and how proactive we all are, there is little doubt. For some reason it wasn't on our radar, or at least my radar, until things had escalated to the point where we felt we needed to take action. I hope that makes sense.

  • flashbangu May 23, 2012

    My question is this: I read somewhere below that Mr Whitlock has been doing this for 2 years, and seeing that the Firearms Ordinance was only implemented 1 yr ago in March. How come no one from the Neighborhood came to speak in favor of the proposed ordinance which was orginally slated to have a 600 foot rule? I attended every meeting and the only one pushing for the ordinance was the family from Selma.
    The entire firearms ordinance meetings were not keep secret and lord knows it was a daily story in most of the newspapers and news shows.

  • SetTheRecordStraight May 23, 2012

    "One of the major problems with the world today is the lack of courtesy and consideration of others"...

    Absolutely, ListenAndThink!

  • Lightfoot3 May 23, 2012

    "We simply want resolution, a peaceful solution. I don't think that's too much to ask for." - SetTheRecordStraight

    Nothing wrong with that. But again I ask, how much shooting would you be okay with?

  • Lightfoot3 May 23, 2012

    "he thinks we are all against him" - SetTheRecordStraight

    The County COmmissioner gave you VERY bad advice. If people are calling the cops "every time you hear shooting", even though they know he is within his legal rights, then of course he thinks you're against him. You're complaining about his yard work for Zeus' sake! People are in the street yelling at him. I'm willing to bet the initial approach to him was that he can't shoot in his yard, not that he was shooting too much. From there it was all downhill.

    Ban together for formal mediation. Might have to do a civil suit to get that, but then you might can work something out. Just realize that SOME shooting should be allowed.

  • Lightfoot3 May 23, 2012

    "you sound like the guy doing the shooting" - mcrande

    One more time ... I live in WAKE county and have houses CLOSER than 100 yards, thus I can't shoot in my yard. And if I could, I wouldn't be shooting like this dude does (nor could I afford that much ammo...if the count is correct).

    "the neighbors should use their numbers and figure out a way to settle it within the neighborhood. Don't be pansy and make it a public debate." - ListenAndThink

    Bingo! Seeing the snide comments they've been directing at me, while I try to have a civil, logical discussion on the matter, I doubt they've been very "nice" with regards to approaching this dude. They're even complaining about how he keeps his yard!

  • SetTheRecordStraight May 23, 2012

    I must say, it's a relief to read posts like yours, mtaylor648, and Hammerhead ListenAndThink, who seem to understand what we've been through. We are not anti-gun, anti-southern, anti-2nd amendment whiners trust me. We are just hard working good people, many retired, many parents, who take care of our neighbors and homes. This started 2 year ago when he first moved in, but we didn't take it to the County Commissioner until now, doesn't that say something? We wanted to work it out, finally had to call deputies (with their encouragement, they said and I quote, "call every time you hear shooting"), he thinks we are all against him. He fails to see what his actions are causing, that his actions are the source of the problem. How can you work with that? We did not go to WRAL, we suspect he might have (hence, my comments about the yard). We simply want resolution, a peaceful solution. I don't think that's too much to ask for.

  • mtaylor648 May 22, 2012

    I live in the neighborhood adjacent to Whitlock and have been here longer than he has. My family enjoys hunting and we have been raised to show respect and not fire our firearms at all hours of the day. Mr Whitlock does indeed fire his gun well before sunrise and after sunset. The 3000 rounds shot is probably a fair representation of the number of shots he has fired, based on my being home all day and hearing the shots being fired. Along our street are 5 very small toddlers that have homes very close to Mr Whitlock's, which are probably less than 1000 feet from his home. In our household we have a baby and trust me, it wakes him up and scares him when the shooting starts. All my grandson says is, "boom, boom!"

    I doubt if any of you would like for this person to live less than 1000 feet of your home. Yes, the ordinance is part of the problem, but the biggest one is the person pulling the trigger.

    Oh, today no gunshots! Wonder if his wife finally got up enough nerve to tell him to stop