Constitutional Issues

With a Bang: North Carolina County Accused of Attempting "Gun Control" Through Amendments to Noise Ordinance

The governing board of a North Carolina county will vote on September 6, 2012 over the adoption of a proposed amendment to that county’s “Loud and Disturbing Noise” ordinance (scroll to page 68 of the linked PDF). 

The proposed amendment defines “unreasonably loud” and “disturbing” for purposes of enforcement, as well as providing a list of “non-exclusive factors” incident to a determination of noise suitability including “time of day”, “proximity to residential structures” and whether the noise is “intermittent or constant”.

The fact of a “Loud and Disturbing Noise” ordinance is not, in itself, drawing the [f]ire of some folks.  What’s instead causing the, um, ruckus is the fact that the propsoed amendment adds the following language regarding the discharge of guns:

 (d) The following acts, among others, are declared to be loud and disturbing noises in violation of this article, but such enumeration shall not be deemed to be exclusive:


(6) The discharge of firearms in such a manner as to create an unreasonably loud or disturbing noise, as described in this section.  It shall not be a defense to a violation of this section that the discharge is in compliance with Section 16-3.

According to some critics of the ordinance, the County is attempting to impose gun control through the clever but not-so-veiled artifice of land use laws.  We’re not sure about that accusation but we do think it’s an interesting issue.

And you thought land use law was boring.

Mike Thelen is a lawyer in Womble, Carlyle’s Real Estate and Land Use Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients, from local governments to businesses, in land use and land development matters in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

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