Archive for Tuesday, January 12, 2016

City sends proposal for shooting range near school back to planning commission

The Lawrence College and Career Center, 2910 Haskell Ave.

The Lawrence College and Career Center, 2910 Haskell Ave.

January 12, 2016


The project to locate a shooting range and gun shop off 31st Street, near the Lawrence College and Career Center, was delayed Tuesday when the City Commission voted to send the proposal back to the city board that already voted once to deny it.

An hour-and-a-half-long conversation about the proposal included discussion about the legality and safety of the location, shooting range safety standards, other locations the owner is considering and questions about the city-owned gun range. The Lawrence school district, Lawrence Boys & Girls Club, gun owners and Rick Sells, the local businessman behind the idea, also provided input.

Commissioners Matthew Herbert and Lisa Larsen said they intended to approve the proposal. But, when Commissioner Stuart Boley and Vice Mayor Leslie Soden said they’d vote it down and Mayor Mike Amyx said he was unsure, the majority of the group decided to send it back to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.

Amyx voted against it, saying he wasn’t “real comfortable” sending it back.

The planning commission voted 4-2 in November to recommend denying the proposal. City planning staff recommended it be approved.

Commissioners gave specific directions to the planning commission to conduct a comparative analysis of the 31st Street location and Sells’ backup location at The Malls, near 23rd and Louisiana streets.

Sells submitted a site plan application Tuesday for The Malls location, which would require only administrative approval from the city and would not go before the planning commission or City Commission unless an adjacent property owner appeals it. Sells would not be required to get the city's approval because the area is already zoned to allow for a shooting range.

The site at 1021 E. 31st St. was zoned as “general industrial” and required a change to “light industrial.”

The Lawrence School Board and Lawrence Boys & Girls Club have voiced their opposition to the shooting range since the proposal went before the planning commission in November. The vacant building Sells wants to use is located about 760 feet away from the College and Career Center and the future site of the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club Teen Center.

School board Vice President Marcel Harmon said the location was a “bad idea,” and that it would create risk or the “perception of risk.”

Harmon said he would not have voted for the College and Career Center to invest at that location two years ago if he would have known a shooting range would be established nearby.

Amyx said he was “having a tough time” because he encouraged the school district to locate there because of its close proximity to the city-owned Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center.

“Boy, did I screw up,” Amyx said.

Boley said he was against the proposal because of concern it would affect the fundraising efforts of the city’s Boys & Girls Club. The organization is currently seeking donations for its teen center, which will operate an after-school program for about 300 middle and high school students.

Much of the conversation centered on a federal law, the Gun-Free School Zone Act, which prohibits any person from knowingly possessing a firearm within a 1,000 feet of a school.

Though the shooting range would be an exception to the law because it allows possession and firing of a gun on private property, the school district and some commissioners said it was important to consider.

The law would require that those using the public street outside the shooting range have their firearm locked in a container.

Soden said she would prefer Sells use The Malls location because it was more than 1,000 feet away from a school. It falls just more than 1,000 feet away from Lawrence High School’s baseball field.

“I don’t have the fear of putting it in The Malls,” Soden said. “The 1,000 feet seems important.”

The discussion also brought up questions of legality about the city-owned shooting range located in the basement of the Community Building off 11th Street in downtown Lawrence.

Private property, such as Sells’ proposed shooting range, is exempt under the Gun Free School Zones Act, but public property, such as the Community Building, is not.

The Community Building shooting range is located between 500 and 700 feet from St. John’s School, at 1208 Kentucky St., said Katherine Simmons, a city planner.

The door to a city-owned gun range in located in the basement of the Community Building at 115 W. 11th St. is pictured on Jan. 8, 2016.

The door to a city-owned gun range in located in the basement of the Community Building at 115 W. 11th St. is pictured on Jan. 8, 2016.

When Herbert asked about the legality of that range under the federal law, Senior City Attorney Randy Larkin said, “That’s something we’re looking into.”

Larkin said he was not aware of the law before it was brought up in discussion about Sells’ proposed shooting range.

The existence of the city-owned range on public property was listed by Herbert as one reason he supported Sells’ proposal.

Herbert, a teacher at Lawrence High School, did not seek an abstention from the vote, even with the school district’s input, because “it’s my responsibility,” he said.

“Every part of me wants to reject this because I teach at Lawrence High School… kids’ safety is my No. 1 priority every single day,” Herbert said. “But I have a real big problem with us as a governing body telling Mr. Sells he can’t do something that literally our city government does. We operate a shooting range less than 700 feet away from a school. We have people bring guns into a public building with a big 'no guns' sign on the door.”

Herbert also said he thought The Malls was a less-safe location for a shooting range than Sells' preferred location on the south edge of the city.

Larsen said she’d support the proposal because, among other reasons, Sells said he would offer gun safety classes.

“With this obsession we have with guns these days, the thing sorely lacking is education, training and having respect for guns,” Larsen said. “This is a business that would offer that.”

In other business, commissioners:

• Unanimously approved a Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department policy that bans tobacco use in all department-owned and operated land, including all parks, sports complexes, bleachers, cemeteries, Eagle Bend Golf Course and other recreational areas. The ban includes all “smoking-delivery devices,” including electronic cigarettes. The vote comes one day after Eudora became the first Douglas County city to extend the state indoor smoking ban in public-access buildings to include e-cigarettes and forbid their use along with traditional tobacco products in city recreational facilities and parks.

• Proclaimed the week of Jan. 17 as “Martin Luther King, Jr. Week” in Lawrence. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday marking his birthday, is Jan. 18.

• Proclaimed January as “Lawrence Transit Month” to recognize the efforts of Lawrence Transit System.

• Unanimously approved an agreement for $95,295 with UtiliWorks, a utilities consulting firm, to assess the city’s current water meter-reading system and recommend how it could improve. The agreement is the beginning of the utilities department’s efforts to modernize how it reads meters and increase the data that it collects.

• Unanimously approved permits and waivers for two Lawrence events: the 2016 Art Tougeau Parade and Final Friday event and the Lawrence Busker Fest. The Art Tougeau Parade and Final Friday event is planned for noon May 27 to 2 p.m. May 28, and the Lawrence Busker Fest will run from May 27 through May 29.

• Unanimously approved designating the following sites as landmarks on the Lawrence Register of Historic Places: Chi Omega House, 1345 West Campus Road; Fuller House, 1005 Sunset Drive; Zimmerman House and Zimmerman Carriage House, 304 and 302 Indiana streets; and Beal House, 1624 Indiana St.


Ken Easthouse 2 years, 2 months ago

Last night's vote for the rezoning was a farce. I may not agree with how Commissioner's Herbert and Larsen would have voted, but at least they had the decency to outline why they supported the proposal. Commissioner Boley was concerned about the impact to the Boys and Girls club, planning on locating near the Peaslee Center, within 1000 yards of the proposed site of the gun range. Commissioner Soden appealed to the spirit of the law to keep guns out of the vicinity of a school.

With these votes split 2-2, Mayor Amyx would have been the deciding vote. He made comments both for and against, and was clearly conflicted. I don't doubt he was conflicted about the proposal, particularly since the applicant had just that day filed to be in the Malls Shopping Center in the event this location didn't pan out. In order to approve the petition at the location, the commission would have to vote 4-1 (which it didn't have), or it could vote 3-2 to reject it (as the planning commission had done) or 3-2 to send it back to the planning commission.

Since the commission was already deadlocked at 2-2, Amyx couldn't vote to overturn the planning commission to approve the facility. But for some reason, he didn't want to vote to deny the petition. Instead, after discussion, it appears everyone was fine with sending it back to the planning commission, with the understanding that The Malls location was in play, which wasn't taken into consideration by the commission. So, the vote to send it back to the planning commission went 4-1, with Amyx voting nay.

We elect public officials to make decisions, and it seems to me Amyx punted, not really commenting one way or the other, but not wanting to be the deciding vote on a controversial issue.

Finally, a word why I was against the proposal: planning. Amyx and other commissioners made a very big deal last week to vote against a shopping center on South Iowa street because there was no plan to allow for planning in that area, and how it would open the floodgates for proposed planning for the area. South Haskell, similarly, falls wedged in between the Southern Development Plan and the Southeast Development Plan. While it falls within the city limits, there really is no development plan for 31st and Haskell. Given there will be a bypass on-ramp within a quarter mile, it stands to reason we should develop a plan for the area. If one area can be denied rezoning for lack of planning, what is different about this area?

Will White 2 years, 2 months ago

I don't believe Amyx want to be the deciding vote on anything. I believe he wanted K10 Crossing to be approved but wanted to personally vote against it. This CC is so dysfunctional it is unreal.

Tony Holladay 2 years, 2 months ago

If you have a conceal & carry permit, you do not have to have your firearm locked in a container in a school zone. I'm betting half, if not more, of people that use the range at the community building have one.

CJ Armstrong 2 years, 2 months ago

While I don't argue your comment, their concern were for the people who don't have CCW permits. It gets complicated quickly. Unless you approach the site from the south on Haskell Ave (E 1500 RD) you have to pass within the 1000yd exclusion zone. If you have an unlocked firearm, regardless of location inside your vehicle, and you drive through this exclusion zone you are in violation of a Federal Law. Once you are on the shooting range property itself, no worries.

One argument brought up last night by one of the commissioners was that they were concerned that they may be entrapping people by locating a range within the exclusion zone. If, for example, you are pulled over at the intersection of 31st and Haskell on your way to the range and you have an unlocked firearm in your trunk, you are in violation of the GFSZA.

I understand the concern but I don't think this line of thinking is all that applicable. You would have a hard time driving through Lawrence (or any municipality for that matter) without passing through any of the 20+ exclusion zones around the city and would be subject to penalty in those zones as well. To be clear, Federal Peaceable Journey Law states that you can freely transport your firearm so long as "neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment". The GFSZA tightens the restrictions inside school zones to require firearms and ammunition be kept separate and locked. General wisdom would then say that if you don't have an in-state CCW permit, the prudent thing to do is to keep the weapon and ammunition in separate, locked containers.

How many people do this is up to speculation but part of being a responsible gun owner is knowing the law. If an individual is too lazy to read up on state and federal law or choose not to follow said law, I don't have a lot of sympathy for them. That being said, I look forward to the opening of a range in the city. I think the closest indoor range right now is Centerfire SS in Overland Park.

David Reber 2 years, 2 months ago

A great solution would be to repeal the feel-good but do-nothing-except-entrap-otherwise-law-abiding-citizens unconstitutional abomination known as the Gun-Free School Zones Act.

The GFSZA, incidentally, was ruled unconstitutional almost immediately after being signed into law by (supposedly) gun-friendly Bush senior. The law was unconstitutionally vague/arbitrary, not to mention overreaching federal authority.

Soon after, it was re-written to create the illusion that it regulated interstate commerce; so that it might pass constitutional muster. It now only applies to firearms that have "moved in interstate commerce, or affect interstate commerce...." Of course, the intent of the law is to harass and intimidate otherwise lawful gun owners. And, of course, any gun "affects" interstate commerce....even if it was made bought it instead of Smith & Wesson or something.....

Yeah, let's just repeal it.

Bob Smith 2 years, 2 months ago

The city does realize that all the fired rounds will stay inside the range, don't they?

CJ Armstrong 2 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I believe that was brought up during the discussion and I don't think anyone was under the pretense that rounds fired at the range would have any probability of exiting the range and endangering the neighborhood. The concern centered around the "type" of people that might frequent the business and the visibility of the range, from the school (of which there is none). Despite the legal nature of the business and location of the business, the city commission is concerned about how it might change the character of the neighborhood.

They are in a tough spot as Mr. Sells has already submitted the paperwork for approval of a range at the Malls location. This location is already properly zoned and would not require city commission approval and would therefore be fully permissible. The only people who could challenge would be stakeholders (i.e. land / business owners) within a 200' radius. They would only be able to challenge the business if it somehow violated a Planning and Zoning Ordinance (which based on comments from last nights meeting, it wouldn't). It would be situated 50' outside of the 1000' exclusion zone from Lawrence High School and would be in an established residential neighborhood.

On the flip side, the Haskell / 31st location is on the edge of town in an industrial park but is within the 1000' radius of the Career and Tech Ed center.

So which to choose? Edge of town, less population density but is inside the GFSZA radius? Center of town, high population density, outside of GFSZA radius? Personally I'd rather have it located further out of town. The Malls location just seems weird.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure what location is right for a gun shop. It is a business, and it's not a new concept. The Malls (Louisiana and 23rd) is zoned neighborhood commercial. Yes, the Malls has empty space, but is it a fit for a shooting range? There are students and others of all ages walking in The Malls. The active population is more dense than the area around the original proposal. To me, The Malls does not seem more secure .

So, what kind of location would work? The shop needs visibility and access, just like any other business. Is it the shooting range that causes the concern?

CJ Armstrong 2 years, 2 months ago

Based on comments made by a member of the School Board, it objected to any firearm related activity (sales or recreation) within the GFSZA radius. Personally, I have always favored indoor ranges located in less dense, industrial locations (i.e. surrounded by warehouses and factories) . I've been to ranges located directly adjacent to a residential neighborhood and it felt like a bad fit.

I think it would be hard to prove that one is inherently more or less "safe" than the other, its just that one fits the character of the neighborhood better than the other. If the school board is concerned about visibility of guns and gun related activities at the Haskell location they are going to have a fit over the Malls location. The difference is they don't have a say in decision making process at the Malls, a location which will be MUCH more visible to students by virtue of the number of students at Lawrence High (as opposed to the Career and Tech ed center) and the amenities which might bring them there (arcade, pet world, Wendy's, McDonalds, etc.) There is not much of anything at the Haskell / 31st location that might draw students down there.

As I said in another post, the City Commission / Planning Commission has a tough decision ahead.

Nikki May 2 years, 2 months ago

Ultimately they can't look in my trunk without a warrant unless I say they can. Especially if I didn't break a law. It's not probable cause to be pulling into the business parking lot. So, if my weapon is in a trunk locked up, nothing they'd be able to do about it.

Not that I have a gun in my possession.

I'm about to go against the liberal stereotype that I tend towards. I live near 31st and Haskell. When this idea for a shooting range came up, my daughter was concerned because it was close to the "school". She has attended the Career Center. My thoughts are the school shooters are NOT the people using a shooting range. These will most likely be the responsible gun owners. Yes, that's a thing. Additionally, if one is planning to shoot up a school, they won't be deterred from or swayed by the distance to their desired target. Basically, I am for the location at 31st and Haskell. I do think it's a better place than the Malls.

Theodore Calvin 2 years, 2 months ago

Nikki, I can understand your logic. But in the most recent shootings in CA the shooter and his wife actually honed their shooting skills at a shooting range. I saw several interviews with the range owner saying he never would have suspected, etc. Thing is, you just can't ever predict these things, but proliferation of guns will save us all

Lawrence Freeman 2 years, 2 months ago

I like the Malls location. It's much closer to me and easier to get to.

Jason Johnson 2 years, 2 months ago

Man how times have changed. I remember working at my dad's butcher shop and needing to take our gun (we used a .22 rifle for slaughter) across the alley to get it worked on at another shop. I think (not 100% sure) that our shop was within 1000 feet of a school. Obviously this was before all the anti gun hysteria. But if I did that today, from how I read that law, I would get in trouble!

Not to mention my dad sometimes having to chase a cow down mainstreet and then shooting it (in town - usually the cops or sheriff were also involved) and hauling it back to his shop.

I recall farm kids having rifles in their back windows of their pickups in the school parking lot.

How many gun-related incidents occurred back then? I think someone died in a hunting accident, but that's probably it.

Our society is changing, and it's not the guns that are the problem. They were easier to get back then. The problem is certainly complex, it's societal, but it's not guns. It never was. They're a tool - certainly a tool for killing I'll grant you that - but just a tool. It's how they are used, and by whom, that needs to be addressed.

Theodore Calvin 2 years, 2 months ago

Were there AR-15's with large magazines available in this forgotten time you speak of? Were handguns a big deal? Im just asking. You're right, societal problems exacerbate the gun issue, but to completely ignore the escalation of the killing power of some of these weapons seems short sighted. Is it really necessary? When does a tool become a killing machine solely intended for that purpose?

Jason Johnson 2 years, 2 months ago

Actually yes, Colt started selling the civilian (semi-auto) version of the AR-15 in 1963. The time period I was referencing in my anecdote was late 80s, early 90s. We even had a handgun in our shop (.22 revolver) but didn't use it because it wasn't as effective for killing cattle (seriously, even using the rifle, some large (1500 lb) bulls sometimes took 2 (or even more rarely, 3) shots to kill).

The only real "escalation" of killing power was probably when we went to the repeating rifle in the late 1800s. (for civilians I mean). Obviously the invention of the gatling gun helped military advancement (even though it wasn't truly an automatic weapon).

So no, between then and now there hasn't been any advance in technology that puts people in any other immediate danger than in the past - the variable we need to look at is still society. That has changed. Not the guns.

Lawrence Freeman 2 years, 2 months ago

"When does a tool become a killing machine solely intended for that purpose?"
when it is in the hands of a criminal, police officer, military or used in self defense.

Bob Smith 2 years, 2 months ago

Intentions belong to the user, not the tool.

Theodore Calvin 2 years, 2 months ago

And better yet, what is the need for anyone to have one of those outside of needing to kill? I get it, they're fun to shoot. I've shot plenty of them at target practice in the sticks, but in reality, is it necessary? Does anyone outside of a war zone really need that kind of firepower?

Bob Smith 2 years, 2 months ago

The word "need" does not appear in the Second Amendment.

Kristine Matlock 2 years, 2 months ago

Neither does semi auto rifle made only for killing. Good grief, the founding fathers didn't have a crystal ball and the 2nd amendment wasn't written with the thought that we would have these kinds of weapons.

I've posted this many times. To understand the 2nd, read the debates the 1st congress had and the militia acts they passed. it's spelled out very clearly.

Theodore Calvin 2 years, 2 months ago

Nor does it say "manufacture killing machines with the ability to murder 20 children at a time." There's a lot of things the constitution doesn't say. Doesn't mean they aren't worthy of thought or discussion, and possible addition to said constitution/rules based on logic and reason. Again I ask, what is the need for such a tool outside of a war zone?

Kristine Matlock 2 years, 2 months ago

I think if people want to play with those kinds of guns, they can join the military, serve their country and play with them every day. I have a couple Marine friends that gave me that idea.

Otherwise, if they want them at shooting ranges (they don't leave the property) and you want to rent them to target shoot for fun, then great. BUT, they stay at the range and are never allowed out into the general public.

CJ Armstrong 2 years, 2 months ago

One of the hurdles of any type of realistic legislative attempt to "ban" assault weapons (basically any firearm that can hold more than 10rds, has a detachable magazine, pistol type grip, etc.) is that it either a) doesn't get rid of the weapons already in public hands or b) would be too costly to enact (and before someone says it, outright banning without compensation isn't realistic in this political climate).

In the first scenario, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, CA) introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 (subsequently defeated in Senate by a vote of 40 to 60) which would have banned the sale or production of any NEW assault weapons. All current legally owned weapons (which number in the millions) would be grandfathered in and would not be subject to this law (much like the 1986 FOPA which banned manufacture and sale of NEW machine guns to the public, but all existing machine guns were exempt). So while this stops the manufacture of new assault weapons it doesn't do anything about the ones already out there, which is a lot (on the order of 1 rifle for every 10 people).

In the case of a buyback program, Australia established a program to buyback roughly 600,000 rifles and shotguns which had been deemed illegal after a recent mass shooting at a cost of $400 million dollars. Conservatively speaking there are 25 - 35 million assault weapons in the U.S. (no one is really sure as there is no national registry of firearms) so using a similar buy back rate ($670/weapon) would cost anywhere from $16.5 billion - $23 billion. Or put another way, 1/5th of the total 2016 Federal Budget for Education.

For the record, I do not own any firearms that would be classified as assault weapons, so I'm not bringing this up for selfish reasons. I'm just trying to bring some perspective to enormity of some of the proposed legislation and the challenges it faces.

Bob Smith 2 years, 2 months ago

Why are some people so ready to place the iron collar of tyranny on the necks of their fellow citizens?.

Theodore Calvin 2 years, 2 months ago

Oh Bobby, I love it when you talk all constitutional. Like a regular John Adams or Alexander Hamilton you are.

Theodore Calvin 2 years, 2 months ago

Since the word "need" doesn't appear, we're doing this out of complete vanity? Well haven't you second amendment lovers become quite the fancy-boys? We don't need a gun that shoots a million bullets a second, but goddang it sure would be whimsically excessively awesome! Who cares if it can mow down a million children a second, not the tools fault. Keep makin em!

Joshua Cain 2 years, 2 months ago

".....but to completely ignore the escalation of the killing power of some of these weapons seems short sighted? Theodore

Like Lawrence said the technology hasn't advanced much if at all.

The AR-15 is good enough for law enforcement and we as civilians face the same threats they do. Does law enforcement really need that kind of fire power? Depends on the situation and what the alternatives are.

The fact is AR-15's are no more deadly than say a .45 ACP. In fact you can argue that because of the larger round the .45 is more deadly. We have many hand guns that are capable of mass shootings and are more effective. The Virginia Tech shooter is a perfect example. He killed the most with a .22 and a 9 millimeter.

In a life or death situation I'd rather have too much than not enough. Look at it like life insurance.

Will White 2 years, 2 months ago

Lots of arbitrary decisions from this CC. Not following process nor policy. Vote against it because it impacts a NFP's fund raising activities? You have to be kidding!

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 years, 2 months ago

Why not put it out where 6th meets K10? People can go work out, then go and shoot. Why does it have to be there?

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