A Harrison County woman says she feels like she's living in a war zone a few evenings every week.
Jessica Akers complained to the Board of Supervisors on Monday that a neighbor has built a backyard firing range and shoots dozen of rounds at metal targets for up to 45 minutes at a time. She said all that separates her and her relatives homes' from Christopher Mullett's range is a few hundred feet of thick woods and a man-made earthen berm. Mullett said he's being responsible but he is aware that people are worried by the sound of gunfire.
"This makes us fearful to be outside when he starts shooting," Akers told the board. "It is very loud. It creates stress. It creates anxiety. It is a danger to the neighborhood. You cannot enjoy your own property. It infringes on our quality of life."
Other than signing complaints alleging Mullett is disturbing the peace, she said there is no legal recourse.
Kids play in the yards and run through the woods.
"It's only a matter of time until someone gets hurt," she said.
She said the berm several times has failed to contain the gunfire. One neighbor found a bullet on her back porch deck about 275 feet from the range. Others were found on a trampoline and swing set.
"We've talked to him several times," she said. "He was very apologetic but he won't stop. He said he would try to build it bigger."
Wanted: Railroad ties
Mullett said he wants to to make it 100 percent safe. He said he hasn't shot in his backyard since a deputy showed him a bullet found on someone's deck. He said he doesn't believe it came from his back yard but he doesn't want to shoot until he has built an even bigger barrier behind the targets than the mound of dirt topped by concrete blocks that he fires toward.
He said it will cost $300 or $400 to buy the railroad ties he needs to make a wall 20 feet wide and 8- to 10-feet tall.
If anyone has any ties they would like to get rid of, he said he'll haul them away for free. He said he shoots to practice for competitions he enters, he's been shooting for years and has completed the training to obtain his enhanced conceal-carry permit.
"I just want everyone to know I'm not using a high-powered, high-velocity rifle," he said. "It's a 9 mm.
"But a lot of people hear gunshots and they don't know where they're coming from and they worry. I understand that. I just want them to know I'm being as safe as I can."
He said he shoots downward from the higher part of his yard toward the targets. And, he said, if he hears children outside, he stops shooting.
But, Akers said, he wouldn't take her suggestion that he turn the range around and shoot toward his house rather than hers. She said the neighbors don't want to take Mullett's guns, or anyone else's, but they don't believe guns should be discharged in the subdivision.
The Twin Lakes subdivision sits a few miles north of Highway 53 and County Farm Road. It's a place with a lot of locked gates and signs warning trespassers that they're being videotaped. Mullett's gate is open, though, and a sign out front says "welcome."
County looking into ordinance
The Harrison County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to have county attorney Tim Holleman and Sheriff Troy Peterson to work on a solution. The Sheriff's Office responds to hundreds of calls about gunfire each year. Akers said they told her they've had 80 already this year. So it isn't an isolated problem.
She said several counties already have laws like the one she wants Harrison County to adopt and she gave them an ordinance to consider, which would outlaw firing firearms in platted subdivisions with exceptions for law enforcement officers and people firing firearms in defense of lives or property. It calls for a jail sentence of fewer than 90 days or a fine of not more than $1,000 or both.
A bill signed into law in 2010 allows counties to regulate shooting in platted subdivisions.
"All we're asking is the same protection as the people in the cities have," she said.
If the sheriff and attorney decide to recommend an ordinance, it would not become law unless supervisors vote to approve it.
And Mullett hopes they don't.
"That's why people move out in the county to have that freedom, to go outside and if they want to shoot, shoot," he said. "I just want to do it in a 100 percent safe manner. I'm not a redneck out here who doesn't care about anybody's feelings, who doesn't think about things before he does them. I do it the right way."