At the Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting last week, many residents expressed their feelings on the recreational shooting of firearms. The county is discussing potential changes to address some residents’ complaints over the noise and proximity of gunfire. Concerns from residents on Hatch Road about gunfire were brought to the commissioners in late June.
Board chair Penny Rich spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck following that meeting and said she wanted to distinguish for residents that the commissioners are not considering a gun ordinance, since that’s against state law. It’s more likely noise, density or safety-related changes could be discussed at the upcoming work session on Tuesday. Rich also stated any changes would be made in neighborhoods in unincorporated portions of the county and not in more rural areas.
“It’s loud when you’re shooting large-caliber guns,” she said. “And it can go on for a long time, if you’re shooting for an hour or more. Kids get scared, pets get scared, and people are always afraid bullets are going to come flying onto their property. We’ve not had that happen, but I think this [discussion] is preventative.”
Still, many residents who spoke during the public comment portion of last week’s meeting voiced their opposition to new regulations or changes stemming from concerns over volume. Some said updated rules would lead them to cut back on time they spend shooting, which would affect their proficiency. Others offered how difficult it would be to enforce a noise ordinance.
Dwayne Mitchell was one of the residents who spoke. He said his family is likely one of the reasons Hatch Road residents approached the board in June. He lives on Council Lane and his family has a long history of shooting together, having built a big berm around a 10-acre lot. Mitchell said he and his brother regularly train their children in shooting, but they’ve already had to cut back to shooting just once a week because of complaints from neighbors.
“We do everything that we do in a safe manner,” said Mitchell. “I feel like if you don’t know the rules and regulations of Orange County before you move here, [our shooting] shouldn’t be an issue. We respect the issue of shooting, and so do our peers.”
Neal Galloway also is a shooter who voiced his feelings on the matter. An Orange County resident of 30 years, he said shooting is very important to him and his family. He said the two main considerations shooters should keep in mind around others are safety and courtesy.
“No law has told me not to shoot more than an hour-and-a-half and stop,” Galloway said, “but that’s what I do. There’s no law that says I can’t shoot on Sunday, but I don’t. There are courtesy factors that can be spread and made positive among shooters, and I hope shooters respect that. Those are things that can help everyone live with each other.”
Rich said she reached out to Galloway after the meeting to thank him for his comments but had failed to get in touch with him. She reiterated it’s still not official that the board will even create a density overlay or updated ordinances for Orange County neighborhoods.
“We’ve had input; we’ve talked to law enforcement; we’ve talked to our attorney,” Rich said. “We know what we can and cannot do. This is just the next step because, once again, folks are feeling threatened. When people are feeling unsafe, it’s the commissioners’ job to look at the issues and see what we can do about it.”
The Board of Orange County Commissioners work session will be at 7 p.m. on September 10 at the Southern Human Services Center.