Thursday, August 12, 2004

City debates target range

Loveland council postpones vote; 100 residents squeeze into meeting

By Sheila McLaughlin
Enquirer staff writer

LOVELAND - With two members missing and chambers packed with people, council postponed a vote that could change the city's gun ordinance to allow an indoor target range proposed for Loveland-Madeira Road.

The decision Tuesday came after an hour-plus public hearing, where close to 100 residents and others - including the Blue Ash police chief - turned out to voice their opinions.

"These are issues that need to be addressed by all of council. We should wait to see if there are changes that might make this more palatable," said Vice Mayor Joe Schickel.

The amendment is needed to allow Shooter's Supply, a 16-year Loveland business, to open the range in a former church on Loveland-Madeira Road, which sits less than 200 feet from the Deer Ridge apartment complex at the city's gateway.

The current gun law bans the discharge of firearms within city limits, except for police officers on official duty or citizens defending themselves or their property. The amendment is the first step in paving the way for the range, which also would require a zone change.

Mayor Brad Greenberg and Councilman Dan Daly were absent from Tuesday's meeting. Schickel and council members Rob Weisgerber and Todd Osborne said they supported the target range.

However, Osborne said he objects to the location because it is at the city's gateway and close to a residential area. Osborne also suggested that the new ordinance should place a limit on the caliber of ammunition that could be shot inside the range.

Shooter's Supply owners Marvin Mann and Dan Lovett said the building would be reinforced to surpass range construction standards, and that ammunition would be restricted to .223 caliber as a safety precaution. That would rule out most hunting and sniper rifles, but most handguns could be used.

Residents in a nearby condominium complex off Highridge Drive, as well as owners of Deer Ridge Apartments, were the most outspoken in their opposition.

Some said it was too close to a residential area and schools. Others expressed concerns about control over the types of people that use the range and people milling around the area with guns.

"Our society has gone crazy, and that craziness is just a little bit close to me for comfort," said Harold Boner, who lives on Whispering Knolls Court, less than a quarter-mile from the proposed range.

Lovett said the presence of police officers at the range would discourage the "undesirable element." A third of 15 shooting lanes would be dedicated to use by police officers, and several off-duty or retired police officers would work there, he said. In addition, a closed-circuit camera would monitor the parking lot, and patrons would have to show identification.

Supporters of the range said the recent concealed-carry law in Ohio underscores the importance of giving new gun owners a place to practice.

Police officers in Hamilton County also need the range to practice and recertify for on-the-job weapon use, said Blue Ash Police Chief Chris Wallace.

"Proficiency with a firearm has a direct correlation to safety," said Wallace. "We believe that for police officers as well as citizens."


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