Practice Range Gunfire Questioned

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Editor, The Herald:

This afternoon I sat in a tree stand on my property in Cumberland County with my bow and arrow and tried to ignore the more than 600 gunshots a few hundred yards away. 600 shots is a guess, since multiple people firing at the same time make the individual shells hard to count. As I climbed out of the tree it occurred to me that the three prisons on the opposite side of the Appomattox river were even closer to the open-air firing range than I was. Unlike the occupants of those facilities I have the option to move a half mile away and use ear plugs.

Gunfire is the universal language of violence and torture. Do you think Spanish-speaking interpreters are necessary to deliver the message? How can anyone teach juveniles at their detention center about non-violence under these circumstances? There is no rhyme or reason in the number or timing of gunshots at the range, especially in October. The shooting goes on long after dark, and on weekends. Because a person off the range does not know when the next barrage of shots will occur, he cannot protect his hearing. Just as important, he can't prepare himself mentally for the shock.

Email newsletter signup

In my backyard, which is further from the range than the three prisons, gunfire averages about 100 decibels per shot, measured by a noise meter. Anything over 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. One gunshot produces 140-190 decibels. The effect on a person nearby depends on the type of weapon and his distance from the firearm. But we are not talking about single shots. You have no idea what it is like without ear protection when 5 people abruptly empty 15 round clips as fast as they can pull the trigger, all at the same time. I do. It's torture. Farmville is inflicting this torture on juveniles at the detention center, illegal immigrants, and inmates at Piedmont Regional Jail.

Being confined in any prison is surely a stressful life. The addition of random barrages of gunfire within a few hundred yards of the three prisons is difficult to justify. I'm certain that Farmville did not sign the Geneva Convention agreements against torture in 1949, but the USA did. The Convention defined both physical and psychological torture. Random bursts of gunfire outside a confinement area qualifies as torture on both physical and psychological grounds. This is surely not the humane treatment of immigration inmates that the Town Council promised when they introduced this project.

Besides the fact that we are torturing inmates with this range, we are not considering all of the local soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Their most common injury is post traumatic stress disorder. What personal nightmares do they relive when several hundred rounds come from out of nowhere in the dark? My father survived WWII by 46 years, but he carried the emotional scars of repetitive gunfire until he died. If you have a friend or relative who has PTSD, you understand how this open firing range in our town inflicts terror on some people. It is ironic that many of the incarcerated illegal immigrants came to this country to escape those sounds, yet we are making them relive their horror.

I do not believe that the Town Council deliberately adopted a policy of abusing inmates, veterans, juveniles, and neighbors. To my knowledge the firing range preceded all three prisons. And that is my point. Nobody would disagree that police officers and correctional officers need to qualify regularly with their weapons. It should be obvious in 2010 that the current location is no longer acceptable for an open air firing range.

I don't believe that ICE understands that illegal immigrants are being subjected to this physical and psychological trauma. Given the number of area prisons, a cooperative indoor range is a logical answer. Almost every other community in America has figured this out. Open air ranges within a town or city are a thing of the past.

My comments could be discounted as the ramblings of an old man driven mad by barrages of gunfire from the firing range next door to his house. But that would prove my point, wouldn't it?

Mr. Editor, do you have an opinion on this subject?

Charles C. Anderson M.D.