Council divided on indoor residential shooting ranges

Council members appear split on the issue of whether to seek an ordinance allowing both commercial and residential indoor shooting ranges in the city.

During a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, the council members all indicated they would have no problem with a commercial venture as long as it followed strict protocols for installation taking into account safety, odor and noise considerations.

In the case of residential, Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey and Councilman Clyde Brown said they wouldn’t support it. Councilman Jeff Cushman was on the fence, saying he would need more information concerning residential.

The other four members, Councilmen Dave Nestic, Rick Drummond, Brian Whitehill and K. Bret Apple, all said they were okay with both commercial and residential. Apple said he was initially concerned about the building standards, but if requirements could be taken for the ordinance from the National Rifle Association or military, then he’s okay for both.

Drummond, who chairs the Rules & Ordinances Committee, asked his fellow council members for direction on how to proceed before preparing an ordinance for council’s consideration. The committee, which also includes Dickey and Brown, had previously voted for two proposals related to indoor shooting ranges.

Brown and Drummond had both voted to bring an ordinance forward which included both commercial and residential indoor shooting ranges, with Dickey voting against it. Then Dickey and Brown voted to bring an ordinance forward that only included commercial indoor shooting ranges, with Drummond voting against it.

When Drummond met with city Law Director Brooke Zellers, Zellers suggested opening up discussion for the Committee of the Whole so they could narrow it down to one ordinance.

During the Committee of the Whole meeting, which includes all seven council members, Drummond recounted how the talks about indoor shooting ranges began with a request from one individual regarding a residential range. Then the discussion grew to include commercial indoor shooting ranges, which he said could bring money into the city, not only from the business itself but from the customers coming into Salem to use the facility.

He said if it’s being done safely, it shouldn’t matter if it’s commercial or residential.

Joe Bricko, a sales representative with Range Systems, a company out of Minnesota which builds indoor shooting ranges, talked to council members about the extensive measures taken to ensure safety with their products. For residential especially, he said they’re built with a double layer of protection to keep bullets inside, keep them from richocheting, reduce smells and reduce noise from the gunfire.

He said the company’s products can be found on every U.S. military base, including nearby Camp Ravenna, and in crime labs, including labs in Columbus and Dayton. The company deals in both commercial and residential indoor shooting ranges, using the same components for residential ranges that they do for crime labs with that double layer of protection.

According to Bricko, the industry accounts for $33.6 billion in economic activity in the United States.

Mayor John Berlin asked how much a home shooting range would cost, with Bricko saying it depends on the size and can range from $60,000 to $100,000. He said people who commit to an indoor range are usually expert marksmen.

Nestic asked how much of what the company does is guided by state statute regulations or design standards.

Bricko said a lot of what they do was developed in the military. He wasn’t aware of any industry standards, but did say there were standards dealing with ventilation. He also said they design to meet the level in local noise ordinances, saying they try to reduce the level for gunfire by 65 percent.

Drummond said while he was researching the issue, he drew a lot of information from U.S. Air Force guidelines and referenced a book of guidelines by the NRA which utilizes specific language for building specifications.

The proposed legislation for indoor shooting ranges will be discussed again at a future Rules & Ordinances Committee meeting.