The owner of a Chatham County shooting range said he hopes to re-open in the fall with more noise-reduction features, following a temporary shutdown and complaints from a nearby cat sanctuary.
“A firearm is an important thing,” said Mark Atkeson. “It’s something you need to respect, much like a car. It has a lot of similarities to how we should view a car in society. The majority of problems that happen with cars, of course, are from irresponsible use. Same thing with firearms.”
Atkeson is the owner and director of operations at Range 2A, a shooting range that, so far, occupies about 10 of 71 acres he owns just outside of Pittsboro on Silk Hope Gum Springs Road.
Range 2A opened in late May, and shut down with just under 40 members at the beginning of July.
Noise complaints from Atkeson’s neighbors at the Goathouse Refuge for cats prompted noise tests by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.
It was determined that the shooting at Range 2A was, as Atkeson said, “just a few ticks” up from the 60-decibel-level allowed, so he closed for a while.
Atkeson said he plans to re-open once he puts some more and higher berms in the shooting bays, with the intention of pushing the sound up, and away from the irritated ears of neighbors. He said the renovations will cost around $50,000.
Atkeson has a varied professional background that includes a job at The Los Angeles Times.
He said that injuries sustained during many years of Motocross racing prevented him from enlisting in the military, which was a longtime dream.
“I strongly believe in supporting our military,” said Atkeson. “I think what they do is very important to us, as a nation. They’re like schoolteachers, and firemen and police – you know, not the highest-paid people on planet Earth, but they provide a very important service.”
A few years ago, he was working with an instructor teaching off-road motorcycle skills to Special Operations personnel. That’s how he met his two main instructors at Range 2A: Lieutenant Colonel Tom DiTomasso and Sgt. Major Jesse Horsley.
DiTomasso and Horsley come from D- Company in Southern Pines.
D-Co offers tactical training for military, security and law enforcement personnel.
“They are some of the very tip-top of the Special Operations World when they retired out,” said Atkeson. “Most of what they’ve done in their careers, they can’t say anything about – didn’t happen anyway. You know, that kind of stuff.”
Atkeson started taking classes with them, and he was so impressed that he signed up his 10-year-old daughter for a shooting class.
“Throughout that process of getting myself and her in the class, and everything, I started to realize there’s a real void in not only very high-quality good training, but there’s a void in good facilities – good safe facilities.”
Atkeson clarified that he believes there are safe shooting facilities in the area, but they’re just not big enough, and there are too few of them.
So he planned a range of his own.
Members of his private facility Range 2A must adhere to consistent safety guidelines, and there’s a system in place for anonymously reporting violations.
In some cases, violations can result in being banned for life. Background checks for potential members ensure that they are legal gun owners.
Atkeson said he plans to build out about 25 acres of the 71-acre property, in eight phases. The idea, he said, is to provide an outdoor environment where people can learn to handle weapons at their own level of experience, as if they were in a real-life situation.
He said that indoor ranges can’t really provide that experience. But doing it outdoors has caused problems with the Goathouse Refuge.
Atkeson said that many of the claims about Range 2A on the Facebook page for the cat sanctuary are not true. He said that the range is 600 feet from Goathouse owner Siglinda Scarpa’s property line – not 80 feet, as she has posted.
In between the two properties, he added, there’s a dense thicket of pine trees. That was one of the features that drew him to the property, said Atkeson.
He also insists that all shooting on the range is aimed “180 degrees” away from Scarpa’s property.
Atkeson said he hopes to re-open Range 2A by October, although he has no guarantees. He said he’d also welcome mediation with Scarpa and any other concerned neighbors in the area.
“I would happily go to mediation,” said Atkeson. “I would love to sit down and try to explain what it is I’m doing, and listen to their concerns and try to address them. Because I feel there’s a great deal of misinformation.”