To remedy the shortage of firing range options for Maconians, a gun storeowner and former county commissioner wants to renovate an old factory as an indoor firing range in Franklin. The only problem: the law of the land says no shooting allowed in town limits.
“Right now, it’s illegal to fire a gun in the city limits,” said Bob Simpson, the gun range entrepreneur. He is also a federally licensed gun dealer and owner of Mountain Firearms.
Now, Simpson is requesting that town officials consider changing the law on the books to allow an exemption for certified, safe and soundproof indoor firing ranges.
There are two outdoor firing ranges nearby Franklin, but both are located on federal national forest land. Simpson said they’re hard to get to in the wintertime, not properly maintained and not suitable for shooting when there are adverse weather conditions.
An indoor range would go a long way in providing additional shooting opportunities for county residents left out in the cold to fire.
“It is a need and has been a need for quite sometime,” Simpson said.
Simpson has not yet purchased the old furniture factory on Ulco Drive.
If the deal goes through, and if the town grants permission for the firing range, Simpson would reinforce the walls of the old factory with steel and concrete, so that they are sound and bullet proof. He envisions 12 firing lanes in the 10,000 square foot space, allowing for amateurs, gun clubs, residents, students and professional law enforcement to fire away. The longest of the ranges will be about 75 meters.
Simpson would like to open the shooting range by mid summer. However, if the town won’t grant permission, Simpson said he may have to take his business model outside Franklin’s limits. But so far, the town leaders seem receptive to the idea.
Franklin Town board member Verlin Curtis said his two concerns would be the noise and safety. However, with those two concerns addressed, he felt comfortable with changing the laws to allow the shooting range.
“In my own mind, I don’t have anything against putting it in there if we have assurances the building is bulletproof,” Curtis said. “I don’t think anybody is against it, really and truly.”
Mayor Joe Collins also supported the idea of a commercial, indoor firing range.
“There are several positives that could derive from it,” Collins said. “It would be a business; it would be employing people and providing a service.”
Currently, the town’s attorney is reviewing changes to the town’s gun law to allow a firing range in town. A draft will likely come to the board in May for consideration and would have a public hearing before being voted on.
Collins doesn’t foresee much opposition.
“If there’s not a noise element or safety factor, then we don’t sense there’s a lot of pushback,” Collins said.