With the city already selected as the location for a proposed indoor shooting range, Murrieta City Council agreed to move forward with a possible amendment to city code that would allow such businesses.
Council members gave their consensus for city staff to begin studying the issue following a public workshop held Tuesday night at City Hall.
The amendment was first proposed by Councilman Harry Ramos shortly after he took office, and not long after . Ramos contends his push for change is directly related to gun safety.
"If that mom would have followed gun safety protocol, Newtown would not have happened," Ramos told Patch after the workshop, referring to reports indicating that alleged Newtown shooter Adam Lanza had access to guns stored in his home that were not registered to him.
Ramos related gun safety training—which he said would occur by allowing this type of venue in the city—to that of obtaining a driver's license.
"If you don't want to have a gun in your house, that is your right, but who would not want this type of training (for gun owners)?" Ramos said.
While several public speakers expressed support for allowing indoor firing ranges in the city—including the operators of Slingin' Lead, which hopes to open in Murrieta in early 2014—one woman spoke in opposition.
"...It would bring more criminal activity to our streets...," said resident Marilyn Hahn. "Please, we don’t want to be Aurora, Littleton, Newtown or Tucson...I can’t imagine people flocking to our city saying 'oh, Murrieta has a shooting range, let’s move there'...Where is the benefit to our city? Murrieta is a safe city...In my opinion, they do not belong in the Gem of the Valley."
Many who spoke in favor of the city amendment said the nearest range is in Rainbow but that it is outdoors and requires being on a waiting list to become a member. Other residents said they are tired of traveling to Oceanside or Riverside, where the other closest ranges are located.
Registered gun owner Steve Ryba said he has been a resident of Murrieta for 15 years, and that he and others are very excited at the prospect of spending their money locally to do recreational shooting.
"I am very in favor of it," Ryba said.
Resident Douglas Gibbs said he agreed a gun range would attract more guns, "but by law-abiding gun owners...and that makes for a safe community."
"Criminals don’t like to meet gun opposition," Gibbs said. "They like their victims to be unarmed. That is why (places with) gun-free zone laws have high crime rates."
Another resident said the fear of gun ranges is a "rational fear," but explained that when he became a father he took it upon himself to become a registered gun owner.
"I never considered owning a gun until I saw the sonogram for my first child and it was going to be a daughter," said Joel Barrett. "...I respect others who make different decisions but I would ask them to respect my decision...Gun ranges are about safety...The city of Murrieta should make whatever change is necessary to support the application by facilities that want to have an indoor shooting range."
As part of the public discussion, City Council quizzed staff on how many inquiries the city has had from potential applicants hoping to open ranges in the city, as well as what the cost and time frame would be to amend current city code.
City Planner Cynthia Kinser said she has received two inquiries in the past year. It would take four months and cost about $4,000 in staff time and public noticing to make the change, Kinser said.
Public hearings would need to be held, she said, and concerns to be addressed would include air quality, hazardous waste and noise, among others.
Additionally, she said city planners are currently working on updating the city's housing and general plans, which include amendments and affect a number of waiting business applicants. Kinser gave a time frame of four months before changing the code to allow firing ranges would be feasible.
City Council agreed staff's current projects should take priority.
"...Not because I don’t agree with it, I might even use it," said Councilman Alan Long. "..(But) there are new office park (applicants) waiting for new standards, who have been waiting for some time..."
Still, Council members were intrigued to hear the level of interest from those who turned out for the discussion.
"We had no idea if the interest—if it was real or not—was in the city," said Councilwoman Kelly Bennett.
Speaking on behalf of Slingin' Lead, Savannah Pfautz said they have been working "very diligently and very hard" toward their intention of opening a 25,000-square-foot indoor range in Murrieta in early 2014. They have already secured a group of investors, according to Pfautz, but would need to construct the facility.
The range would offer safety courses for beginning to avid gun users, Pfautz said. Members would need to be registered gun owners and would be required to undergo background checks.
"...In our facility we will not allow criminals...," Pfautz said. "It is a place for law-abiding citizens to practice their skills and a place for them to practice at safely...The research we have done (has shown it is) something that is needed in the area and wanted in the area."
Mayor Rick Gibbs said consensus has been given and that it would now be up to city staff and the applicant if things were to move quicker.