Weekend mornings, John Famolari's two young children love to play baseball and soccer in their spacious backyard - at least until their neighbor across the creek breaks out his machine guns.Now, here's where it gets a little unbelievable - at least based on my experience.
In a wooded lot about 500 feet away, Dr. Michael Land regularly uses a Thompson submachine gun and other automatic weapons for target practice. The racket often makes it hard for Famolari and his wife to talk - and even harder for them to entertain guests at their 4,500-square-foot brick home.
What's worse, Famolari says, is the worry. When the gunfire starts, he calls his kids inside.
"You can never plan for an accident," says Famolari, a computer technician who in 2002 moved to Union County from New Jersey. "There's always the chance there will be a ricochet or a misfire. And I don't want it to be in my kids' direction when it happens."
For Dana Wilson, hopes of a peaceful neighborhood were crushed long ago. Too often, she says, weekend social events turn out like the one in June, when she and her husband had friends over for a cookout. Their friends' 4-year-old son was on the backyard swing set when the machine-gun fire erupted.When my boys were four years old, if they had heard guns going off next door, their first impulse would have been to go have a look. When I was six, I remember Old Paco taking my brother and me to Armed Forces Day at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh (my brother would have been four). We loved the machine guns, and even got to fire them (and they weren't mere tommy guns, either). I'm just wondering how much of this hysteria is being communicated to the kids from their parents (who, like as not, are yankees who moved to North Carolina from states where the attitude toward gun ownership of any kind is a mixture of revulsion and horror).
The boy ran to the deck "crying hysterically," Wilson said. The party had to be moved indoors.
I'm not saying that the noise factor isn't a legitimate issue. But five will get you ten that a not insignificant number of the children of the people who are now complaining about machine-gun fire will, upon reaching the teen years, turn into the sort of thoughtless little bastards who crank up their car stereos to ear-shattering levels every time they climb into their cars, and their parents won't say a word to 'em.
And, hell, yeah, I am telling you kids to get off my lawn!