Two Belmont County families say they are afraid to go outside on their own property because of a gun range next door, and they say bullets whiz by at all hours, whether they are outside or not.
Cathy Sutton said the Hawkins Gun Club used to be a good neighbor, but now, she said verbal agreements are ignored. “My grand kids can’t play in the creek because there’s bullets ricocheting off the trees. It’s just not safe to be there.”
Mark and Nancy Hartline’s dog was shot several years ago. They said their dog dragged itself back from part of their yard near the gun club, leaving behind a trail of blood. “If somebody’s gonna shoot your dog and wound it in that manner, what’s he gonna do to somebody else,” Mark Hartline said.
The dog later had to be euthanized. Last week Hartline said he was mowing grass near the property line while someone was shooting. He reminded the person of the no-shooting agreement. Hartline recorded the encounter on his cell phone camera. The shooter responded, cursing at Hartline and offering an obscene gesture.
A spokesman for the Hawkins Gun Club said, “I feel he (Hartline) has a right to be safe on his own property. That’s not negotiable. We plan to work with him. That confrontation wasn’t right. We’re sorry that argument escalated.”
However, neighbors maintain the gun club is not secure. Members have the combination to the padlock but neighbors report they’ve seen youngsters climb the fence and shoot, when no one’s around.
One neighbor said people come late at night, and shoot using the light of their car headlights. When it opened, the club started out as a muzzle loader group. Hartline said now any gun is accepted, even assault rifles.
The Hartline’s call themselves animal lovers. They have dogs, cats, chickens and even micro-pigs. They have a garden and love their seven acres of land in rural Belmont County, but they’re afraid to use their own property. “To me, it’s a common sense thing that you don’t shoot if somebody’s in the direction of your gunfire,” Hartline said.
Hartline said he is a gun owner himself, a veteran, and a big believer in the right to bear arms, but he said responsible gun owners know that safety is essential.