The board of aldermen unanimously approved an amendment to its Unified Development Ordinance on Oct. 5 that will allow for indoor gun ranges within commercial districts inside town limits.
The Franklin Planning Board began looking into the issue in July after Jeff Wang, owner of Jeff’s Ammo & Arms, requested to construct and operate an indoor gun range at 245 Carolina Mountain Drive in Franklin.
Town Attorney John Henning Jr. said the town’s development ordinance didn’t address indoor gun ranges at all in the allowed land uses. However, there is a police power ordinance that makes in unlawful for anyone other than a law enforcement officer to discharge a firearm inside the town limits. Adding the amendment to the development code will specifically allow for the land use.
The Franklin boardroom at town hall was packed with people interested in the issue but only a handful of people spoke during public comment — all of the speakers were in favor of allowing an indoor gun range under certain circumstances.
Macon County Sheriff’s deputy Derrik Jones said he had been outside the North Carolina Justice Academy’s indoor gun range without hearing a sound coming from inside where there were people shooting in 15 to 20 lanes. He said having an indoor firing range inside the city limits would be much more convenient for law enforcement officers and safer than having people driving out to Dirty John Shooting Range near Nantahala — more than an hour round-trip drive for most residents.
Cliff Cyphers, who teaches Macon County 4-H students how to shoot rifles and pistols, said Dirty John was too far out and many parents wouldn’t drive their students out their more than once.
“I’d like to see an opportunity for them to train here instead of just going to a tournament,” he said. “I’m in favor of having one closer than what we have.”
No one spoke against allowing indoor gun ranges. Henning wanted to make it clear that the board’s action to amend the ordinance did not automatically approve a specific project like the one proposed by Wang.
Franklin Town Planner Justin Setser said anyone wanting to open an indoor gun range would still have to go through the process of requesting a special-use permit, which requires a quasi-judicial hearing before the board of aldermen to make sure it meets all the requirements.