Willow Spring, N.C. — 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.
"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.