A neighborhood uprising that erupted a year ago over the noise from an area gun range has apparently returned with a vengeance as nearby residents have renewed their demands for some peace and quiet from this shooting venue north of Burlington’s municipal limits.
On Monday, roughly two dozen residents converged on the county’s main offices in Graham to air their complaints about the Rad Range Training and Event Center during a regularly-scheduled meeting of Alamance County’s commissioners.
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The commissioners ultimately heard from two of the gun range’s critics that evening when they opened a designated public comment period that kicks off all of their regular gatherings.
Among those who took advantage of this opportunity to address the county’s governing board was Butch McKenzie, who resides a few hundred feet from the gun range’s HQ at 1746 Jim Barnwell Road.
McKenzie told the commissioners that he and other neighboring residents are routinely bombarded with sounds from the gun range that surpasses 85 decibels – a threshold that he said is used by one firearms industry association to indicate excessive noise. McKenzie went on to quote from Rad’s own Facebook page to illustrate just how callous he believes the gun range has been to its neighbors.
“’Want to know what it was like being on a roof-top in Benghazi?’” McKenzie read from a social media blurb posted on February 18. “‘Want to feel the rush of emptying 30 round Mag of 5.56 in 2 seconds[?] Come on down to RAD Range this Sunday!’ How disrespectful,” McKenzie added.
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In the meantime, Paul Capps, a homeowner along NC 62, recounted an incident earlier this month that he said confirmed for him just how brazen Rad’s activities have become.
“Two weeks ago, on a Sunday, a neighbor two houses up from the range was cleaning out his deer stand and bullets came flying by,” Capps recalled during Monday’s public comment period. “He called 9-1-1, and a deputy came out. Both he and the deputy had to get on the ground to keep from getting hit by bullets. The deputy went to the range and closed them down for three days until something could be done. However, two hours later they went back to shooting.”
Although Capps and McKenzie were the only opponents of the gun range who addressed the commissioners on Monday, they weren’t the only ones who showed up to register their objections to Rad’s operations.
Also on hand that evening was Howard Dunn, an adjoining property owner who told The Alamance News that he has gotten fed up with Rad’s continuous intrusions onto his land. Meanwhile, Tommy Fargis, the pastor at Deep Creek Baptist Church, told the newspaper that the gun range’s activities have become a persistent distraction during his church’s Sunday services.
Absent from Monday’s meeting were Rad’s owners – Rudy Cartassi and David Simmons – who were previously quick to defend the gun range’s operations when they first came under fire last spring. At the time, the venue’s proprietors asserted their claim to a grandfather exemption from the county’s noise ordinance, which they said they had inherited from the previous property owner – one-time county commissioner and Revolutionary War enthusiast Sam Powell, who had a historically-themed gun club on the same premises.
Although Rad’s right to an exemption was disputed by the gun range’s critics, the county’s leaders generally seemed to accept the venue’s assertion of a grandfather privilege. The prospect of a county-level crackdown became even less likely later that year when Cartassi launched a bid for the board of commissioners that, in the end, never made it beyond last year’s Republican primary.
The public debate over Rad’s operations seemed to fade away after Cartassi’s unsuccessful campaign for the county’s governing board. But the gun range’s activities have apparently remained very much on the minds of its neighbors – as evident from the remarks that the commissioners heard Monday. Meanwhile, the hope of a détente between Rad and its critics may be slimmer than ever before, judging from a rude experience that McKenzie said he and Dunn recently had near the grounds of the gun range.
“An employee of the gun range came down and threatened us for being on the gun range,” McKenzie recalled, stressing that they had actually been on Dunn’s land at the time. “He said he could go get his AR-15 and shoot us if we were there. We started to leave Mr. Dunn’s property when the gunfire erupted. This was the day after the deputy told them not to shoot for three days, and they were already shooting trying to send a message to us while we were on Mr. Dunn’s property.”