Smithfield, N.C. — The Johnston County Board of Commissioners approved a new noise ordinance Tuesday, but left out a provision that would ban loud gun discharges.
An ordinance banning loud gunshots, music, cars and ATVs in residential areas was proposed after neighbors voiced a number of complaints about a gun owner in the Oak Ridge subdivision near Willow Springs who uses his backyard as a shooting range.
But after about 300 people packed into the commissioners' meeting Tuesday evening – many up in arms about their right to bear arms – language banning gunshots was removed from the approved ordinance.
Instead, commissioners outlawed "excessive and unreasonable" use of a firearm in residential areas.
Neighbors say James Whitlock and his wife fired about 3,000 gunshots over a two-month period. Whitlock says they're exaggerating.
"I've never shot in a way that was intentionally designed to inconvenience people," he said. "It's been occasional."
The newly adopted ordinance better defines violations, said county attorney David Mills. "Time of day, how close the noise is to residences, whether the noise is recurrent, repetitive, intermittent or constant" will be taken into consideration, he said.
Whitlock said he believes the new ordinance will allow him to continue shooting in his yard.
Mills, however, said he believes Whitlock's shooting would be a violation.