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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

City Council to consider regulating Atlanta's gun ranges

  • Stoddard's Guns
A new Atlanta City Council measure could place heavy restrictions on shooting ranges inside the city limits.

The proposed ordinance, citing the "best interest of the public safety and welfare of the citizens of the City of Atlanta," would amend current city codes by requiring gun range owners to apply for a permit to operate in the same way that pawn shops and package stores must do every year. The ordinance would also ban shooting galleries from being located within 800 feet of homes, schools, parks, recreational facilities, libraries, places of religious worship, hospitals, and day cares.

Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean tells CL the new ordinance came about after she had heard about a proposed gun range in her district, the Westside neighborhood she represents. She was surprised about the lack of safety buffers in place and decided to revisit the current process because it "hasn't been looked at for decades."

Stoddard's Range and Guns co-owner Michael Halbriech, who last month revealed plans to open a new location on Bishop Street, questions the timing of ordinance. He thinks that it's a "classic 'Not In My Backyard' move" demanded by a small group of residents.

"For this to be raised immediately on the heels of us filing our [special administrative permit] with the city, we've reached the conclusion that while the proposed amendements affect the entire city, the impetus for it at this moment in time was to impact our property," Halbriech tells CL.

Halbriech thinks that instead of placing shooting ranges under the watch of the city's license review board, the changes should be handled through the zoning process. He says that the amendments place unfair restrictions on business owners already complying with city codes.

"We've invested money, relied on the laws as they exist, we've made a commitment, we have filed paperwork with the city, we have met with the NPU and neighborhood association," says Halbriech. "It was blatantly unfair and unjust for them to make a change that would impact an existing business or a business that has already proceeded down that path reliant on the [current] codes."

Last month, Loring Heights Neighborhood Association president Jeremy Faughtenberry said that Stoddard's representatives approached the neighborhood "out of courtesy" despite not needing their approval. While he personally didn't "have any concern" about the shooting range, he said numerous residents were worried about the gun range's proximity to nearby homes.

Pat Horton, a Loring Heights resident and business owner, thinks that the gun range would be a welcome addition to the area given that it would create around 25 jobs. More importantly, she says, it'll improve the area by bringing in the right kind of foot traffic that Bishop Street desperately needs.

"Stoddard's didn't just start in business last night," Horton tells CL about the gun range's reputation. "You're ignorant if you're saying that you're worried about people that are criminals coming in there to use the facility to buy guns. It's not that kind of situation."

Adrean's proposal is expected to come before City Council at an upcoming meeting. Halbriech remains "hopeful" that the measure won't be approved. But if it does, he says Stoddard's will "evaluate whatever options might be available" at that time.

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