Columbus-area neighbors voice concerns about proposed indoor shooting range
By Chad D. Baus
Amidst news that unemployment rose in most cities in December comes word that some people are opposed to a new business bringing jobs into their Columbus neighborhood.
Late fall, the Livingston Avenue Area Commission, an advisory body codified by the Columbus City Codes tasked with advising the Columbus City Council on various community issues, voted to recommend to the Columbus Board of Zoning & Adjustments (BZA) that they approve a special permit for the city's first indoor firing range, to be located at 1030 Alum Creek Drive.
In November, the zoning board agreed with the recommendation, and granted a special permit to the owner of the building at 1030 Alum Creek Dr., just south of Livingston Avenue near I-70, to allow the indoor firing range and gun shop.
Bryan Boatright, the area commission's vice president, is quoted as saying "We are an area starved for businesses. In our eyes, we couldn't see a negative impact."
Since the time of the vote, however, the commission and zoning board have come under heavy fire from various community groups and local politicians, including anti-gun Mayor Michael Coleman.
"We don't need membership to a shooting range. They shoot out here every day," Gina Hawthorne-Hill, a Driving Park community leader told the Columbus Dispatch.
South Side leader Debera Diggs agreed, admitting that "What we fear is the unknown."
Following is news coverage from a recent hearing, as reported by WCMH TV (NBC Columbus):
Although the decision has already been made, the Dispatch reports that Mayor Coleman has asked his development director to look into what options, if any, the city has to deal with it. But it's not clear what the city could do.
"The city has made a decision because the (zoning board) has the authority to make the decision," said Assistant City Attorney Josh Cox.
Jonathan Beard, president and chief executive of the Columbus Compact Corp., has already filed an appeal with the zoning board, but according to the Dispatch city officials have said the courts are the proper venue.
According to the Dispatch, the appeal contains letters from groups opposed to the plan, including the Ohio State Youth Violence Prevention Advisory Board, which wrote that that area of Columbus "is already burdened with elevated rates of gun violence; government endorsement of the placement of an indoor firing range in this area sends the wrong message to children growing up in the community."
In an email to Buckeye Firearms Association, the committee's chair, Michael Aaron, wrote that while the opponents of the proposed range believe that it will lead to an increase in crime and violence, "we know that based on statistics this is not the case; there is no correlation between firing ranges and inner city gun violence."
"We believe that this opponents are infringing on the constitutional rights of property owners (ability to do as they wish with their property within the confines of the law) and neighboring residents (the right to procure legal arms)," Aaron wrote.
According to the Dispatch, the 52,862-square-foot building used to house an Ohio Adult Parole Authority office, and an Ohio Department of Youth Services parole office remains in the building.
One commenter on the NBC4i website proposed a question to ask opponents. Noting the building used to house "fresh released convicts," he asked "What would you rather have? Parolees, or legal gun owners?"
Bob Previts, who runs the Accredited Firearms Training Academy and Gun Club, is quoted as saying Columbus needs an indoor range. He said many gun owners have to travel outside the city to shoot.
Chad Baus is a Member of the Fulton County, OH, Republican Central Committee and Vice Chairman of Buckeye Firearms Association.