Neighbors worry gun range could be built near 2 schools

by: Ken Lemon Updated:

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GASTONIA - Residents in a Gastonia community are worried that the sound of gunshots could disrupt their quiet neighborhood. A group wants Gastonia City Council to consider building a 300-acre gun range behind their homes.

The range would also be near W.A. Bless Elementary School and Forestview High School.

Protesters greeted parents dropping students off at Forestview with warning signs.

“We are totally opposed to it,” said Dean Auten.

They said a committee of shooting enthusiasts considers 314 acres near the schools a good location for an outdoor gun range owned by the city to replace the one near Rankin Lake Park.

Parkgoers complain about the noise. Richard Sarver said the land for the proposed range would border his backyard.

“With human beings running the ranges and human beings doing the shootings, mistakes can be made,” Sarver said.

Vincent Blake has four children and lives near the property.

“What if a stray bullet hits a kid?” Blake said.

Neighbors have hundreds of signatures on a petition to block construction of a range off Union Road. Two City Council members said the investigations into a new gun range were conducted by a group of private citizens, including a few council members.

The private group said it will be a skeet and trap-shooting range; there will be no long-distance shooting or police training. They decided that the property on Union Road would cost the city too much money.

Councilman Todd Piercall backs the group.

“It has definitely been ruled out. We’re not even considering it,” Piercall said.

Although the committee has ruled the location out, city staff could still present it as an option.

“We are in what would be considered an early fact-finding phase,” said Walter Kimble, who is working with the private committee. He said the committee is looking at other locations and public safety is a key consideration.

Protesters said they will not feel like they have won until the city staff or City Council formally rules out their neighborhood.