Fort Worth schools take issue with gun range

03/05/2014 5:57 PM

03/05/2014 5:57 PM

Voicing concerns about stray bullets zipping around and an increased presence of guns near schools, Fort Worth school officials are opposing a shooting range planned next door to the district’s headquarters and near an alternative high school.

The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a zoning change allowing Cullen & Shotts LLC to build an indoor, potentially 90-yard-long shooting range that could handle up to .50-caliber weapons.

Safety measures to prevent accidental shootings are included, the council was told.

But its proximity to the Metro Opportunity High School, an alternative school at 2720 Cullen St., and the Fort Worth school district’s administration building at 100 N. University Drive, which also houses a special education classroom, concerns school officials.

The shooting range is planned for 2901 Cullen St., across the street from the side of the administration complex and roughly a block from the high school. It’s also about a block east of Greenwood Cemetery.

Todd Parrish, an attorney representing the district, told the council that the risks of having the indoor gun range so close to school buildings include the increased number of guns in that area and the potential for stray bullets to leave the gun range.

“It is not a common thing, but it is not an uncommon occurrence where you have these situations,” Parrish told the council Tuesday night when talking about stray bullets, referring to an incident in Garland in 2010.

Matt Johnson of Fort Worth, majority owner of Cullen & Shotts, defended the project and said everyone who enters the gun range will have to pass the same kind of background check required to purchase a gun in Texas.

Aaron Ludwig, a shooting range consultant for Utah-based Action Target, which was hired to design and build the shooting range, said there will be no stray bullets.

His firm is providing the ballistic equipment for the Fort Worth Police Department’s new indoor shooting range at the Public Safety Training Center at 505 W. Felix St. in south Fort Worth. The company also built a $8.5 million gun range at Tarrant County College Northeast Campus, which opened in 2013 and is used to train police cadets and by many police agencies.

The new TCC indoor range replaced an outdoor range after the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district’s Chisholm Trail High School opened nearby, leading to concerns about stray bullets hitting students.

“I can guarantee that no round will leave the police department’s range, the same I can guarantee that no round can leave this proposed range,” said Ludwig.His company is based in Provo, Utah.

The school’s objections

After the zoning change was approved 6-1 on Feb. 12 by the Fort Worth Zoning Commission, Fort Worth school trustees authorized Superintendent Walter Dansby to oppose the zoning change.

Parrish said during this week’s council meeting that a Garland resident was reportedly struck by a stray bullet from the Garland Public Shooting Range in 2010. The outdoor shooting range lost a lawsuit over the issue, and was ordered to pay the resident more than $1 million in December.

“With those things in mind, the district is concerned about the health, safety and welfare of students and parents, as well as their staff, faculty and other visitors that are on these district properties on a daily basis,” Parrish said.

In an interview, Ludwig said comparing an outdoor facility to an indoor range is not a fair comparison.

“An outdoor range is very, very different from what we are constructing in an indoor range. My equipment guarantees no round can leave, and then secondary to that is that it is completely enclosed in a concrete building,” he said of the proposed project.

Clint Bond, a school district spokesman, said some students and visitors could find it “disconcerting” to have a gun range so close to schools.

“I think there is a disappointment on the part of the district, and I don’t know what steps the district will investigate going forward — that remains to be seen,” Bond said about the council’s decision.

Bond said students being able to see guns in the area could cause a distraction to learning.

“We felt it prudent that we be diligent in our opposition to that type of a business there. We believe in the interest of safety, not only for our children but for all our visitors, and that was probably not the type of business in that particular area that we would approve of,” Bond said.

Going to court to stop the gun range would be a board decision, said Bond.

“To my knowledge the board has not had the opportunity to discuss that and I don’t even know if they will discuss that,” he said.

Safety standards for the gun range

City Council members inquired about safety standards, possible noise disruptions and about any required inspections during the council meeting.

Though there are no federal or state safety standards required for gun ranges and no recurring safety inspections required, Ludwig said none of the 20 shooting ranges constructed by Action Target in the DFW area have had a stray bullet. His organization meets and exceeds accepted safety standards put out by the National Rife Association and other organizations, he said.

“I am very, very confident that I can guarantee and will put our name and our ability to it that no round will be able to leave that facility when we are done with it,” Ludwig told council after he had inspected the building.

In addition to the background checks, Johnson said, weapons and ammunition will be inspected when customers enter the concrete building, he said.

Johnson said there will also be a gun store at the location, which did not require a zoning change from the city.

He expects to create 30 full-time jobs and as many as 15 part-time jobs from the business.

Councilman Jungus Jordan questioned how loud the facility will be outside, and Johnson said the building will stifle gun shots, making them about the sound of a whisper when outside the building.

“The school district’s issue was safety, and you have proven to me that things are going to be safe,” Councilwoman Gyna Bivens said to the representatives of the company at the meeting, with council members agreeing.

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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