By Errol Castens
OXFORD – Lafayette County supervisors voted 3-2 on Monday to return a proposal for a firing range on Highway 7 North to the Planning Commission to have commissioners recommend a fence around the six-acre property.
In July, the commission had approved the plans of TGC Outdoor Inc. owner Joshua Gregory for three pistol ranges and one rifle range on his six-acre property between Oxford and Abbeville. The 3-year-old gun store opened its current location last year.
Commissioners had acknowledged the concerns about safety and complaints about noise from neighbors but had indicated Lafayette County’s lack of zoning gave them no grounds on which to deny the proposal.
Gregory sells guns and accessories from his store on the property and currently lets customers shoot at targets without fee. Board Attorney David O’Donnell agreed that no county permission is needed for noncommercial shooting.
Gregory said each range on the bowl-shaped property would be surrounded by a 13-foot-high earthen berm and that shooters are already strictly monitored for adherence to safety rules.
“I’m very safety conscious. I was raised by a career Marine,” he said. “You don’t just go throw a range up and shoot.”
Opponents reiterated their concerns.
“Right now, the noise is so horrific. It is absolutely a nuisance,” said neighbor Dorothy Goss. “Nobody wants a range in their community.”
Neighbor Charlie Murphy said his ill wife is disturbed by shooting noise even inside their home and is concerned about possible danger.
“You get uneasy outside your house, because you never know when they’re going to shoot your way,” he said. “What if someone’s on dope and just starts shooting?”
After O’Donnell told them they were authorized to address the issue in the name of public safety, supervisors voted 3-2 to ask the Planning Commission to make recommendations for fencing to keep people from wandering onto the property.
Supervisors Chad McLarty and Mike Roberts dissented.
The Planning Commission will consider the issue again on Aug. 26.