Carlsbad gun range show down again

By: Phil Diehl

May 5, 2015

The Carlsbad City Council has squelched an appeal to open an indoor gun range in the city’s industrial park.

The council voted 4-1 late Tuesday — in a public meeting packed with gun-range supporters — to deny Gregg and Lisa Gunther’s request to open the range at their Gunther’s Guns business on Loker Avenue. Councilman Keith Blackburn opposed the motion, saying he believed the range was a recreational use allowed under the area’s existing zoning.

The proposal had been turned down by the city planner in December, but the Gunthers appealed to the Carlsbad Planning Commission. When the commission upheld the denial in February, the couple appealed to the City Council.

“We came here expecting fairness,” Gregg Gunther said after Tuesday’s vote. “We didn’t get that. We feel like we have been persecuted.”

Though it denied the Gunthers’ appeal, the council instructed the Planning Department to determine what would be a good location for a shooting range in Carlsbad.

City Planner Don Neu said he denied the Gunthers’ request because gun ranges are not specifically listed as “permitted uses” in the zoning rules for the Loker Avenue site. Neu said the rules do allow recreational uses, but that the range is not exclusively recreational.

Many of the dozens of people who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting disagreed with Neu’s assessment, and urged the council to grant the appeal.

“It is absolutely recreational,” said Curtis Arndt, a longtime Carlsbad resident who described himself as a former Marine, a law enforcement officer and an airline pilot.

“My wife would go shooting with me every weekend if she could,” he said, but the nearest ranges in Oceanside and Poway are too far away for them to go that frequently.

Douglas Baker, a Carlsbad pastor, said he’s taken firearms training and taught his daughter to shoot.

“When I go to the shooting range, it is to relax… and to (be prepared to) protect my family, should the need ever arise.”

But not everyone approved of the range.

“This is simply a business we don’t want in Carlsbad,” said Bill Fowler, also a Carlsbad resident.

Fowler said he was glad to hear there are ranges in Oceanside and Poway, and one soon to open in San Marcos, because that means, “We don’t need one here.”

Many of the speakers emphasized that shooting is a recreational sport, that it’s safer than most other sports, and that it’s included in the Olympics.

Lisa Gunther told the council that almost 1,000 people had signed her in-store petition supporting the gun range.

“We will build a world-class range you will be proud of,” she said. “There is no need to delay this further.”

Leslie Devaney, an attorney representing the couple, told the council the appeal should be upheld because the gun range is clearly a recreational use.

“This has become a big issue for a number of reasons,” she said, but primarily because it involves guns.

“This is what democracy is all about,” Devaney said.