The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 30, 2014

Town of Richfield to examine firearms ordinance

By Shannon Beamon, Staff Writer
CNHI

Thursday, January 30, 2014 — The town of Richfield will take a closer look at its discharge of firearms ordinance following concerns raised by citizens.

At the town’s meeting Monday, resident Mickey Smith said there have been periods of excessive gunfire at a residence on North Main Street for the past year.

Last September, Smith heard more than 50 shots from a high-powered rifle coming from the approximately three-quarter acre property across from his own house, he told the council.

“One day last week they were firing something like small cannons, black smoke all over from using black powder,” Smith said.

“If you’ve ever heard a mortar go off, that’s exactly how it sounded.”

Smith, who regularly has grandchildren in his front yard and knows a man who farms behind the property where the shooting takes place, felt this was both unreasonably dangerous and a violation of Richfield’s current discharge of firearms ordinance.

The ordinance states that, within the city limits, it’s illegal to discharge a firearm at night and that “discharges may be lawfully made when a person is engaged in hunting ... on land which is a bona fide farm.”

“This is not a bona fide farm,” Smith said.

“This is, at most, three-quarters of an acre. Nobody’s hunting, it’s just target practice.”

However, when council members discussed the ordinance with the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office the next day, they were told the wording of the ordinances was too murky to enforce.

The ordinance does not explicitly state that discharging a firearm for reasons besides hunting is prohibited.  Firearms may be discharged by hunters on a bona fide farm, but it’s not the only way.

“The way it reads doesn’t exclude target practice,” Councilman Scott Heglar said.

Council members shared Smith’s concern’s about discharge of firearms close to homes, though.

“There’s no reason for anybody on a half-acre to be shooting any kind of weapon. That’s common sense,” said Councilman Barry Byrd, who has had problems with people doing target practice near houses in his own neighborhood.

“You know these things don’t always hit the target,” Councilwoman Mary Ann Fisher said.

Councilman Terry Almond said it close a house with people and “it’s not safe.”

The council will wait for further guidance from the sheriff’s office before taking any action, but some changes have already been suggested, including setting a minimum distance from an occupied dwelling for the discharge of a firearm.

The council did not show any inclination toward prohibiting the use of firearms altogether.

Smith said that was not his intention in coming forward either.

“I know there are a lot of people who hunt,” Smith said.

“I don’t want it to affect them.”

Byrd pointed out that even if a new ordinance put restrictions on gun use, hunters can always bow-hunt in the city limits during Urban Archery Season.

“There’s a lot of things to consider,” Heglar said.

“We’ll need to look at this further.”

Richfield business owner Jay Patel also brought up concerns about horses traveling across his property.

He said the horses have left droppings in parking lots of several businesses in Richfield.

“People can get it on their shoes and track it inside,” Patel said.

He has avoided contacting law enforcement about the issue, but he said the problem is getting worse.

When one business owner confronted one of the horsemen about it, Patel said the horseman harassed her verbally.

Mayor Floyd Wilson told Patel there wasn’t an ordinance in place to address that specific issue, but there didn’t need to be.

“If you have told them to get off your property, it’s trespassing,” he said.

He and the rest of the council advised Patel to call the sheriff’s office or the highway patrol the next time it happened.

“Don’t be afraid to bring them in on it,” Almond said.

“We’ve had problems like this in the past and it’ll only get worse.”

Heglar said he would fill the sheriff in on the situation as well.



To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at shannon@stanlynewspress.com.