|Sample invoice for ammunition purchase. Much of the ammunition |
is purchased from large out-of-state vendors or from Frisco Gun
Shop and Wal Mart.
Approximately four years ago, at the same time he was pushing the county to build a flooded duck shooting impoundment over at the Dare County landfill, Commissioner Mike Johnson was responsible for getting an appropriation into the county budget that allocated $10,000 per year to start school shooting teams in the county. The discussion of this matter was never brought out in commissioner meetings. When EOD learned about it, several years ago, he called school board chairman David Oaksmith, who also knew very little about the matter, but gave assurances that the schools were taking no part or responsibility in the matter, and would only be allowing the kids to use school property as an after-school program event, much like other clubs, etc. Neither Oaksmith or EOD knew at that time that the county was actually putting money into the program.
|Sample invoice for one of several gun purchases|
EyeonDare has learned, since that time, that the county has continued to finance shooting teams at all three high schools and at least one middle school, and in some cases, school finance officers are being utilized to receive invoices for ammunition and supplies and pay bills for the teams. In addition, several school teachers/employees serve as volunteers to assist the teams with gun related events and training. Recently, our school superintendent, Sue Burgess, spoke with EOD and insisted the school system is not a part of the program, despite the fact that the youth involved submit applications through school offices.
The real problem, as EyeonDare sees it, is no one seems to know where the liability lies should someone get hurt or some unfortunate happenstance occurs while these kids are using and learning to use these firearms.
Currently, the county has placed the "Youth Shooting Teams" into the parks and recreation line item budget, but Parks & Recreation Director Tim White says his department has no control over the program. White does acknowledge ordering ammunition, targets, and related supplies for the teams, upon request from team advisors, and storing it on county recreation property. When asked, White refused to say where the ammunition, with orders sometimes ranging up to 275 boxes of shells and bullets, is stored. Invoices examined by EyeonDare also reveal that at least two or three military style 22 cal. rifles have been purchased, along with at least one gun safe. The county finance office receives, approves and pays all bills covered under the county's yearly appropriation.
When EyeonDare inquired as to who was safeguarding the guns, no one was able to give an answer.In fact, at one point it was obvious that no one in county government knew where the guns were located, despite the fact they are county owned. When asked where the ammunition and skeet machines, etc. were kept on Hatteras Island, one respondent said the items were kept in a utility trailer that was moved from place to place by the team advisor(s).
EyeonDare spoke with county manager Bobby Outten about the shooting teams and Outten also said the county had no direct supervision or control over the teams other than providing financing for the guns, ammunition, etc. EyeonDare was also told the the teams did receive private donations from time to time which were funneled through to the school finance officers.
Meanwhile, back when Commissioner Johnson started his push for getting the duck impoundment built at the landfill, he presented a check to the board of commissioners for $10,289 which was written by the non-profit NC Waterfowl Association, a Florida corporation that has now gone defunct. Johnson said the funds were raised locally to aide in teaching youth about hunting and proper use of guns. EyeonDare recently contacted a former official of the Association who was stunned to learn that the money had never been spent and still sits in the county coffers. The official told EOD that the county should turn the money over to another youth organization, and specifically mentioned Camp Canvasback, which is a part of the Eastern 4-H organization in Columbia, NC. EyeonDare does not know if the Association and Dare County has ever reached an understanding on the matter as of this date.
In the middle of the entire fiasco is the, now infamous, Johnson big bear hunts on the county posted (no firearms allowed) landfill property. However, Outten insists that Johnson's bear hunts and the youth shooting teams are two entirely unrelated matters, despite the fact that last month the board of commissioners also tossed Johnson's youth (bear) hunting program over to the parks and recreation department and told them, "you handle it".
The last time EOD talked with director White about that matter, the befuddled parks and recreation advisory committee had instructed him to check with other counties in the state to see if any had ever operated such programs. Apparently, White was unable to find any, and the saga continues.
Meanwhile, Johnson says he's stepping down from his seat on the county board of commissioners in December and, at least for the time being, the citizens of Dare County have guns and gun classes associated with their school system and tax dollars are being used to buy firearms and ammunition, whether anyone likes it or not.
After all, "its no different than a soccer team", Outten told EyeonDare. And to that, EOD says, "if we want to teach our kids about age-old traditions in Dare County, such as gun handling/hunting, why not, instead, teach them about net mending and boat building? Then they would have something to fall back on in life. Meanwhile, let's leave gun ownership and hunting techniques to the kids' parents, providing they approve. OK?"