Target shooting halted in NC forest

Patricia Matteson, a spokeswoman for the National Forest Service, said that because the Croatan National Forest is largely flat and surrounded by residences and urban developments, firearms pose an increased risk.

“There was a stray round that traveled 0.8 miles and ended up in a bedroom of a house on adjacent private land,” Matteson said.

In another incident, National Forest Service personnel were pinned down due to gunfire, and gun blasts knocked down trees and blocked a road, Matteson said.

Paul Valone, president of gun advocacy group Grass Roots North Carolina, said the increase in gun-related incidents should be attributed to a raw increase in gun users rather than a percentage increase in irresponsible gun owners.

“We’re all aware that a small percentage of the population is irresponsible,” Valone said.

Federal legislation from 2010 allowed gun users to follow their home state laws when in national forests, and in North Carolina, laws have extended gun use to national forests.

Community members from the Croatan National Forest area are meeting with park officials to come up with solutions to the safety issues, though none have been published yet.

Valone said the National Forest Service’s current policy punishes responsible gun owners because of a few irresponsible owners.

“Anything that someone can do negligently with a firearm is already illegal. Prosecute them,” Valone said.

“But (Grass Roots North Carolina) would not support any policy that would place a blanket ban upon the actions of responsible gun owners.”

Valone said Grass Roots is not directly taking action against the firing halt.

These incidents, as well as others nationwide, indicate people have not been responsible gun owners, said Sam Arbes, president of the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club.

“You need to be knowledgeable about the terrain,” Arbes said. “If you are outdoors and on flat land, you shoot into a hillside or downward — something you can see is there.”

Arbes said recreational shooters must act responsibly in forests, pointing out that a .223-caliber rifle shoots straight for 200 to 300 yards and will pass through paper or cardboard without changing course, so the bullet can end up anywhere within three football fields if the shooter doesn’t make sure it will lodge into a hill or the ground.

“Know what is beyond your target; any firearm course will teach that,” Arbes said. “You need to be knowledgeable about the terrain.”

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