Jun 202009

nce again, the staccato bursts of machine gun fire will be rattling the windows and the nerves of the adjoining homeowners to Dr. Michael Land’s Wesley Chapel “Sports” shooting range.

In a decision which probably shocked as many in Dr. Land’s camp as as it does his opponents, Judge W. Erwin Spainhour has evidently decided in favor of machine guns next neighborhoods.

Click to view: Temporary Order – Michael R. Land vs Village of Wesley Chapel

The judge’s temporary order does not include any specificity as to the reasons for his ruling, we will have to wait to be enlightened. Conversely, the Village of Wesley Chapel has yet to issue a statement regarding their future course, should they (and I think they should) choose to appeal the ruling.

It always amazes me how the law in some regards can be as precise as a laser beam, but in other cases be as blunt as the flat side of the shovel. Maybe we should just blame the lawyers.

If Dr. Land had only used his shooting range for the little 22 cal. target rifle he sports for the news photographers and TV cameras at every opportunity, I don’t think people would have objected as strenuously as they do when he whips out his Thompson submachine gun and blasts away. Furthermore you have to wonder about BATF licensing procedures, as Dr. Land’s testimony during the Board of Adjustment hearing gave cause to question his application for a Class III ‘machine gun’ license.

Be that as it may, as long as hills of Wesley Chapel are alive with the sound of shot and cannonade, then Dr. Land’s shooting range will remain the target of angst and anger.

 Posted by at 10:54 am
Mar 282008
Shooting Range proximities

Use Scroll bar to view complete image or click image for pop-up window

Machine Gun Alley – Part 2

Union County TV audiences and newspaper readers have ring-side seats to what promises to be a long drawn out and likely expense affair. The print and video media has covered the story from the homeowners prospective as well as that of Dr. Land.

The completely new gun range has now been showcased on the front page of every paper, including the image of Dr. Land holding a seemingly benign rifle. Considering that all the hubbub is over his machine gun, you’d think he would have given his fans a front page photo with him posing with the Tommy Gun — you know in character.

Above, I have posted a photographic composite to illustrate a few facts that have been lost in all the gun-smoke. First and foremost the specific character, design and nature of the old range ‘backstop’ — before Dr. Land built his new one. For years, this served as only protection from stray bullets the neighbors had. It certainly doesn’t fill me with confidence and had the families in Stonegate realized the truth earlier, the controversy would have started years ago.

Another View from the Edge

Today, I read Ritchie Starnes ((The County Edge 3/28/2008)) front page editorial, titled ‘NRA could help defend the gun range’. According to Ritchie, Dr. Land’s case is a slam dunk. Ritchie writes, “Land acknowledges that a number of gun advocate organizations of rally behind his cause. Between a perception of grandfathered property rights and a successful NRA inspection, Land seems to be on solid ground.”

Ritchie continued, “Since he created a target range three years prior to the ’97 Sport Shooting Protection Act, his site enjoys the added insulation of perpetuity as long as he continues to use a range at that location, Land said his rights remain preserved.”

Well there you have it folks — game over!

Not so fast – Bucko

I suppose small matters of nonconforming land use, the lack of a county zoning permit and special use permit and the fact that prior to creation of his new gun range, his old range had not been inspected or licensed by any government entity and questions remain as to whether he even meets the specifications or qualifies for the Sport Shooting Protection Act. Here comes the judge!

I guess I asked the wrong question

Recently I spoke to Curtis Blackwood, NC House of Representatives member for western Union County and asked him, about the Shooting Range Protection Act. It was obvious to me that he’s been reading the papers because he immediately recited many the arguments in favor of Dr. Land. I stressed to Curtis that I wasn’t interested in the act as relates to Dr. Land, but I specifically interested in knowing if Mr. Blackwood felt the lack of any design specifications for what constitutes a sports shooting range was a concern to him.

Mr. Blackwood broke off our conversation and walked away, so I interpreted that to mean that Rep. Blackwood doesn’t have a concern as to the lack of specificity in the ordinance.

Readers should note, that Mr. Blackwood is running for re-election and will be on the ballot in May 6th Republican primary.

As I said before, “Ambiguity” should be the North Carolina State Word.

It seems inevitable that Wesley Chapel’s Village Council will once again be riding the tale of a legal dragon as it tries to protect the quality of life in this fast-growing town.

On Tuesday evening, April 1st, the Village Council of Wesley Chapel held a public hearing on the proposed Firearms ordinance. A little more than 30 people signed up to speak, two thirds of which indicated they supported the firearms ordinance.

With the exception of two speakers who called subdivision homeowners misplaced Yankees ((We’ve heard these remarks many a time from a very a small core of Village old-timers, who more often than not have been riled up and misinformed by former Village Council spouses, who lost their seats of power during the clean sweep of the Council in 2005, the last and most bitter one in 2007 — the WBT-TV tape gives a little flavor of it)) , most were very sincere in their expression of opinion. The Village Council did not vote on the ordinance, how refreshing a change for Wesley Chapel from just a few years ago ((In early 2005, the old guard council maniputlated the land use plan to rezone residential land into commercial so a sitting councilmembers property could be sold for $1.5 million and the 3rd shopping center at the corner of Waxhaw-Indian Trail and NC84)) , they decided to review the ordinance with eye towards refining the terms and making allowances for profession services like dog trainers.

The following are local TV news reports:

WBT-TV Report

WCNC-TV Report


WSOC-TV Report

This incident was brought up during the hearing.


 Posted by at 6:33 pm
Feb 252008
Robert Stack as Elliott Ness

Actor Robert Stack as G-Man Elliot Ness with his Tommy Gun

Typically when I hear the words ‘Tommy Gun’ I think of 1920’s era Chicago mobsters and G-Man Elliott Ness or James Cagney (You dirty rats), Edward G Robinson and of course Bogart. Tommy Gun is one of many nicknames ((“Chopper”, “Chicago Typewriter” and “Chicago Piano”)) for the Thompson Submachine Gun, produced in differing variants starting in 1921 and used by the military till the Vietnam war era. In many circles a coveted weapon to own and I’d imagine awesome to shoot.

In 1934, the Congress passed the National Firearms Act which sought to control the proliferation of automatic, short barreled and explosive weapons. To purchase a machine gun like the Thompson, prospective owners must submit to an extensive background check, reasonable need to own the weapon, ID photos and fingerprints. Subsequent laws in 1968 and 1986 have limited access to automatic weapons though foreign imports and manufacturing for sale to the civilian population. Vintage weapons like the Tommy Gun command great value to collectors.

Grave cause for concern

Yes, Wesley Chapel residents, the fusillade of automatic weapons fire you hear is coming from the unregulated ‘Sport Shooting’ range in Dr. Michael Land’s backyard, is from a Tommy Gun. The sound is incredible as magazine after magazine is expended in very short order. Mowing down targets at rate of more than 400 bullets per minute; that’s a lot of lead.

To see a Thompson Submachine gun like Dr. Land’s in action, watch following video:

The reader should note the enclosed shooting range is where this weapon is fired.

Neighbors complain, Village Government caught in the middle

I have been watching this issue closely, as it is a ‘classic’ example of suburban encroachment, where two differing land uses clash. Just a few years ago, when Wesley Chapel was just farm bordering farm, target shooting in your backyard caused nary a ripple of worry. But with the advent of subdivision growth, the inevitable has come. I suppose the staccato bark of machine gun fire has hastened the conflict of land uses and public safety. Suburbanites with their children playing in the backyard, will never be at ease. A dense subdivision and a shooting range cannot safely co-exist without careful planning and negotiation by both sides and even then it is a unsatisfying compromise.

Until recently, when Dr. Land unexpectedly and arbitrarily withdrew, Wesley Chapel’s Council, the area homeowners and Dr. Land seemed to be working toward an ‘accommodation’. Dr. Land had re-enforced his shooting range berm, reportedly building it higher and deeper. They jointly agreed upon NRA ((National Rifle Association)) inspection of his range, inspection fees to be paid by the town and results shared with all. Level heads were prevailing. All the participants wanted to keep the issue to as low a profile as possible and until this apparent impasse, they’d accomplished it.

The multiple stories in the newspapers, recent editorials and letters have raised the visibility, coarsened the language and put all sides on a collision course.

Waxhaw Exchange Story: Village eyes gun ordinances
Waxhaw Exchange Editorial: Wesley Chapel’s next showdown

In the end, the absurdity would have killed an agreement

“Reasonable people working together should be able to come to a solution”, a basic tenet of our democracy, right? What happens when even a compromise satisfies no one? In my view, Dr. Land’s machine gun use makes the likelihood of a resolution near to impossible. Rifle and pistol fire, while loud and disconcerting, does not elicit a reaction a machine gun brings.

Even if he agreed to only discharge his automatic weapon once or twice a week and at a given hour, neighbors would eventually demand a complete cessation of the range in it’s entirely — who can blame them. Fear, anger and frustration, not to mention the potential loss of property value will force a political solution, if not now then soon.

NC State Statute

Dr. Land has addressed the Wesley Chapel Council a number of times, in an effort to work out the controversy and to belay peoples fears. He has voluntarily spent thousands of dollars to upgrade his range and remove as much cause for concern as possible. Living in Weddington, he only comes to Wesley Chapel to shoot and ride ATVs on his multi-acre homestead. In his testimony before the Village Council, he stated that his range is protected by North Carolina statute, Sport Shooting Range Protection Act of 1997 which exempts a ‘Sports’ shooting range from noise ordinances.

Definition (2) of the act defines a Sport shooting range as “An area designed and operated for the use of rifles, shotguns, pistols, silhouettes, skeet, trap, black powder, or any other similar sport shooting” You’ll note that machine gun is not listed. ((Neither is anti-tank gun, or Gatling gun, mini-gun or naval gun listed as sports weapons.)) Logically, one can assume that had the General Assembly intended to include machine guns as a ‘Sporting Range’ weapon, it would have been listed at the forefront.

Had Dr. Land continued to pursue the NRA range review as the contract was originally written, I would have held out hope for an short-term amicable solution, but as it looks now, this issue may boil over to a battle of personal ‘rights’ — the right to shoot a machine gun in your backyard versus the right to be safe and enjoy quiet in your backyard.


The Enquirer Journal reported yesterday (Feb. 27), that Dr. Land had changed his mind regarding the NRA inspection of his home-based shooting range. Quoted in the EJ, Dr. Land said, “Once the report is known and given, (Wesley Chapel) will have complete disclosure of that report, without editing, straight from the NRA.”

The NRA report will address the design and safety of Dr. Land’s range according to NRA standards. While this action will not answer all concerns, it does at least keep the process moving.

Union County Weekly, February 29, 2008:

Stonegate property values in jeopardy?

From the story, quoting Allen Tate realtor Jim Sullivan,

The nonstop rat-a-tat was so loud and frightening, Sullivan said, the mother was “screaming for the children to run inside that house.” The mother hustled her frightened children into the car and sped off, Sullivan said never looking back…

… “it’s a disaster, the gunfire was so loud, I was stunned,” Sullivan said, clearly frustrated. He noted Sunday’s incident is by far not the first in the upscale neighborhood where homes sell for more than $400,000.

Accidents Happen

Gun range safety is a issue that should concern everyone. The following video link deals with a range in Pennsylvania and bullets hitting a home 3/4 of a mile away. Unlike Dr. Land’s backyard shooting range, this incident occured at a state licensed gun range.

Bullet Holes in Home in Buckingham Township