Iredell County District Attorney Sarah Kirkman told the Mooresville Tribune last week there would be no criminal charges filed related to the Sept. 14 accidental shooting of three homes in the Curtis Pond neighborhood by careless target shooters about 2 miles away.
Outrage and indignation from Curtis Pond residents who felt the responsible party, a group of four men target shooting on private property on Johnson Dairy Road in Iredell County, should be held criminally and financially responsible for the incredibly reckless act.
But, according to state statutes, without the intent to shoot into an occupied dwelling or the intent to damage property, no laws had been broken.
I’m one of these outraged residents. I live one street over from where one home was struck by a bullet that then flew into a closet. In a second home, a bullet entered through a bedroom window and lodged itself into the bed. A third bullet came in through a wall of another home and nearly struck a 10-year-old child as he was walking upstairs.
Luckily, no one was injured or killed.
The owners of the homes are free to pursue civil lawsuits against the men responsible or sic their homeowner’s insurance policies on the landowner but otherwise, they’re out of luck.
Richard Anderson, whose son barely missed being hit as he walked upstairs, said he was disappointed with the decision not to hold the men criminally responsible. “I think it’s a big legal loophole in our system that needs to be closed,” Anderson said.
Lawyers initially seemed eager to help him pursue a case but when they discovered no one had been injured, they disappeared, Anderson said.
Most people I’ve spoken with and chatted with online — Second Amendment supporters included — feel the group of target shooters behaved irresponsibly and should at least be legally required to pay for property damage. While some would argue that’s what civil lawsuits and insurance will handle, I’d like to see a new statute created that would make it a misdemeanor to fire recklessly — even accidentally — into homes, vehicles and public and private spaces. The statute would require the perpetrators to pay restitution to cover all repairs and insurance deductibles.
This new statute would also require the perpetrators take a gun safety course. If you can’t be safe with a gun, then you shouldn’t be allowed to use weapons without learning the basics.
I spoke with state Sen. Vickie Sawyer, who represents Iredell and Yadkin counties, on Thursday. She listened to what happened and bluntly told me any statewide legislation she could bring to fix this loophole would likely never get the support it needs to pass.
The difficulty in a one-size fits all law that would be good for people in both urban cities and rural counties in North Carolina is too great a divide to gain support, Sawyer said. “Knee-jerk reactions” to isolated incidents never turn out well, she added. Sawyer, an insurance agent, said there are other methods already in place to force the guilty parties to provide restitution.
She suggested I look into contacting county representatives that could make local changes.
I appreciated Sawyer’s willingness to have a discussion with me as a constituent and a reporter. But I think many think it’s ridiculous that people can accidentally fire bullets into three homes and walk away without charges.
There has to be a solution somewhere between Second Amendment rights and keeping families safe. Something that might keep target shooters from recklessly shooting rifle bullets over their intended targets.