Portion of shooting range shut down amid concerns

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The owner of a local gun range has voluntarily shut down a portion of his business following complaints from neighbors that bullets are coming near their residences, and on occasion striking their homes.

Joshua Gregory will not be allowed to reopen a section of TGC Outdoor Shooting Range, according to the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, until he meets the original requirements of the county planning commission.

Gregory admitted to the Board of Supervisors Monday evening that TGC Outdoor Shooting Range, which opened in 2013, has not constructed the number of berms required by the planning commission and has allowed rifles to be fired on the pistol range, which is also not being monitored full time during operating hours.

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Gregory said his budget has not allowed him to complete the necessary work on the berms but he is working on a loan to satisfy his obligations.

Supervisors Mike Roberts and Kevin Frye said they couldn’t care less about budgets.

“Not to make it personal, but I’m really not concerned so much about your budget as I am the safety of the residents around it,” Roberts said. “This isn’t the first time this has happened. This is the third time it’s happened and there are numerous complaints and stuff with the sheriff’s department. It’s not like you woke up yesterday and realized there is a safety issue with your range.”

Gregory, who admitted some rounds have obviously ricocheted out of the range, said the vast majority of noise complaints have been from residents in the area of the range, which is located on Highway 7 near Abbeville.

Fear for safety

Tim Pruitt is one of those who came before the board to discuss his concerns. He’s worried about his safety and those of his loved ones. Pruitt, who lives about three-quarters of a mile from the shooting range on County Road 204, said on three instances in the last year rounds have hit within feet of where he, family members or friends were standing.

“I have bullet holes in my house,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt, who has filed reports with the sheriff’s department, said he was assured by Gregory twice no more rounds would come near his home.

“This third time, when it nearly hit me and a friend, is the final straw. Something has got to be done before someone gets killed, namely me and my family members.”

Charlie Murphy, who lives north of the firing range and the direction in which rounds are being fired, also said rounds have landed in his yard. He added that the shooting goes on at all hours of the day and night.

No monitoring

Planning commission chairman TJ Ray said if there had been regulations, zoning or a building inspector in 2013, he would not have allowed the range to open for business in its current location.

“If I had a vote today, it would be to shut the range down until the thing is made to specifications and someone from the NRA (National Rifle Association) is brought in to inspect and certify  before it is allowed to have one more bullet shot,” Ray said.

Building inspector Joel Hollowell, who was hired by the county last year, has inspected the property and his report to the supervisors states rounds are being fired in the direction of homes, according to board president Jeff Busby.

Busby said he has seen pictures of trees near the range that had bullets in them well above the 50-foot height of the berm on the range.

He suggested no rifles should be allowed on the pistol range.

“I love the concept,” of allowing gun owners to fire their weapons, said Busby. “But I don’t love bullets going into people’s homes. And I don’t like seeing treetops get shot out. They’re not being watched all the time. Where you may be an expert, Jeff Busby isn’t. That’s what scares me is the Jeff Busbys.”

Frye is concerned there is a lack of monitoring the range to ensure rounds are not hitting the homes of residents. Gregory, who said safety is a top priority, admitted the range is not monitored constantly.

“Either you are monitoring for safety or you’re not,” Frye said. “It sounds to me like there are two things you presented to the planning commission that you are not doing.”

Roberts made a motion that the range be limited to handguns until Gregory has fulfilled the original obligation to create the berms that allow rifles on the range. The motion was unanimously approved.