Smithfield, N.C. — The Johnston County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote Tuesday on a proposed ordinance that would ban loud gun discharges – a move that some gun owners oppose.
As it stands now, the county has no law regarding noise from guns, but officials began looking into the matter after a number of complaints about a gun owner in one neighborhood who uses his backyard as a shooting range.
Neighbors say James Whitlock and his wife, who live in the Oak Ridge subdivision near Willow Springs, have fired approximately 3,000 gunshots over a two-month period.
Although sheriff's deputies were called to his home several times, they found he was not breaking any laws.
County attorney David Mills says that some factors under a revised ordinance that would qualify gunshots as being "unreasonably loud" include the proximity to other homes, when they are fired and how frequently.
As the proposed ordinance stands now, first-time violators would face a $50 fine, and repeat offenders could face fines up to $500. If approved, it could go into effect immediately.
"Every citizen of Johnston County wants to be free of unreasonably loud and disturbing noises," he said.
Johnston County already has some restrictions on firing guns, including for those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or for bullets that cross into someone else's property.
Those opposed to changing the noise ordinance say the definition of "unreasonably loud" is subjective.
"It makes you a little nervous," said Robin Canady, who owns Canady Gun Shop in Smithfield. "It seems to take out any opportunity people would have for recreational shooting."
He's also concerned the ordinance could affect sales.
"By passing it, they'll cut out the availability and the amount that other people can shoot for recreation," Canady said. "(That will) slow them down on ammo-buying and therefore not buying guns."
Mills says the ordinance strictly goes after noise complaints and that the county sees it differently.
"Our Board of Commissioners has no desire to put any unnecessary restriction on that right," he said.