CHAPEL HILL – A Chapel Hill resident is calling for a review of gun laws in Orange County after witnessing the use of assault rifles in the immediate vicinity of Chapel Hill High School over the weekend.

“Saturday morning I heard firing of military weapons,” Robert Perkins says. “I could tell they were either assault rifles or they were high-capacity hand guns that were being fired.”

In an email to the Mayor and Council sent on Sunday, Perkins says he witnessed people firing “AR-15 rifles or similar weapons over a period of two hours for ‘target practice’ directly towards Chapel Hill High School”, which is also near his and other residences.

Perkins is ex-military. He says he was once a range officer and is very familiar with the different sounds weapons make. Saturday, he took his daughter to the high school for her lacrosse game, without yet knowing exactly from where the noise was coming. A little later in the day, Perkins heard what he thought was a shotgun.

“I called 911 at that point,” Perkins says. “The operator said, ‘oh there’s something going on about target shooting. The owner is allowed to do it’.”

He says he believes the address from which the gunfire came is within 460 meters of the school. He also says they were firing 160 meters from the nearest house and 400 meters from his own house.

Perkins says with the sounds of gunfire continuing, he went out looking for the source.

“As I was driving on Homestead Road, I saw a guy fire a shotgun 50 meters from the road in the direction of the high school,” Perkins says. “

The weapons were being pointed down into an embankment so, if fired on target, were not in danger of reaching the high school.

According to the Orange County Geographic Information System (GIS) map, the location at which these people were firing the weapons is just outside the Chapel Hill and Carrboro town limits.

Orange County law states that a firearm may be discharged in the County for protection of the home, target shooting, and hunting. An Orange County spokesperson said the use of firearms must be done in a matter which is not harmful to anyone.

Both Chapel Hill and Carrboro prohibit the use of firearms within town limits, but Chapel Hill Police Public Information Sgt. Josh Mecimore says those regulations don’t reach into the Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).

Perkins says he approached the people to express his concern.

“I’m told that it’s legal what you’re doing, but I think what you’re doing is very dangerous because if you make one mistake with those weapons, the bullet will fly and could fly in any direction,” Perkins says. “There are literally hundreds of people at Chapel Hill High School right now for Odyssey of the Mind.”

He says the conversation never got heated or argumentative.

“The fellow was very calm, very assured,” Perkins says. “He said, ‘well, what I’m doing is safe. I’m firing downhill.’ There’s a hill there. ‘So what I’m doing is completely safe’.”

Perkins sent his letter to Mayor Kleinschmidt and the Town Council since the area is heavily residential. Just across Seawell School Road is a housing development on Hearthstone Lane and Savannah Terrace.

The town has no jurisdiction outside town limits and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says new regulations make annexation very difficult.

For now, residents will have to rely on the care taken by neighbors when discharging firearms in the County unless county officials decide to review regulations in the near future.

Robert Perkins’ Letter to the Town

Dear Mayor and Council,

Several people were at the property of Scott Koven on Saturday.  These people  fired  AR-15 rifles or similar weapons over a period of two hours for “target practice” directly towards Chapel Hill High School, .  They were 460 meters from Chapel Hill High, and were shooting in that direction.  See attached maps for the graphic.  I believe the address is 1915 Homestead Rd.  An AR-15 round is deadly to 800 meters, and bullets have killed people 1.5 miles from where they were fired.   They were firing 160 meters from the nearest house, and 400 meters from my house.

For the safety of the citizens, I believe the Town must act immediately to stop people from firing high-power military rifles within the Town.

This is the house where the people were firing weapons.  I believe it is at 1915 Homestead Road. Link to Google Maps

I live 1.5 miles inside Chapel Hill.   I am a veteran and can judge how far way a rifle is firing.  I heard up to 10 shots being fired in rapid succession.  I called 911.  The operator said that the owner was shooting legally on his property.    I asked for someone to return my call.  The operator said someone would contact me.  No one did.
After the men had been firing for two hours, I went the house where men were firing and spoke to a man who identified himself as the owner and the two other men were there.   I do not know if this was Scott Kovens, who owns the property.   The ownerwas willing to talk.  He was very assured of himself.   I said he could kill someone accidently.  He said he would never make a mistake and shoot high.  I saw one of the multiple weapons they fired- it was either an AR-15 rifle or a more powerful version that shoots a .308 bullet.   The weapon was colored in pink camouflage.  He said that he was target shooting downhill on his property and that he knew it was safe.  I pointed out that one stray bullet shot too high would easily travel the 1200 feet to the high school and kill someone.  He said what he was doing was safe.

After Sandy Hook, you’d think anyone would think this was insane.  I am an Army veteran.  I’ve been a firing range safety officer.  This is outrageous behavior.  Accidents happen at ranges all of the time-

How could he shoot so close to the school?  From what I can tell, it is because It turns out that he lives in the southernmost tip of Orange County, a spur 1.5 south of Eubanks Road.  Because he is technically not in the town, it is legal for him to shoot. See the red X in the green map.

On Saturday, I called 911.  The operator said that the owner had called and it was legal.  When I spoke to him, the owner said he had contacted the Orange County Sheriff and it was legal.

I can’t find any Orange County ordinances that regulate discharge of weapons.   In NC, discharge of firearms is covered, if at all,  by County and local ordinances.   In Chapel Hill, no firing of weapons is allowed.  In Orange County, evidently you can shoot all you want with no limitations on your property.

For the safety of the citizens, I believe the Town must act immediately to stop people from firing high-power military rifles within the Town.

There is a state law.  I do not know if it applies
Article 21B.
Criminally Negligent Hunting.
§ 113‑290.  Unlawful use of firearms.
It is unlawful for any person, while hunting or taking wild animals or wild birds as those terms are defined in G.S. 113‑129 and G.S. 113‑130, to discharge a firearm:
(1)        Carelessly and heedlessly in wanton disregard for the safety of others; or
(2)        Without due caution or circumspection, and in a manner so as to endanger any person or property; and resulting in property damage or bodily injury. (1991, c. 748, s. 1.)

Please contact me with respect to this matter.

Robert Perkins