Prospects for the opening of a shooting range in downtown Rockville appear dim, despite local gun enthusiasts' strong support of the proposal.
A poll of Rockville City Council members following this week's meeting on the issue found only Mayor William E. Hanna Jr. in favor of opening the range.
Three council members -- Phyllis Fordham, Steve Abrams and John Freeland -- oppose the facility. John Tyner, who could not be reached for comment, is the author of legislation to prohibit the discharge of firearms in the city, which would outlaw operation of a target range downtown.
"Those living in Rockville don't want it," Fordham said. "I heard nothing at the public hearing to demonstrate we should have shooting galleries anywhere in the city."
Freeland said he is "dead set against having it (the shooting range) downtown."
Such a business could jeopardize the city's plans for revitalizing its business district, Freeland continued. "We're working with major organizations to come here, and they reject it. We want to straighten out the mess in downtown.These companies say to me, 'You want to change the image of Rockville, yet you're still interested in honky tonk.'"
Abrams said he is not opposed to shooting ranges but he could not support the plan to open one at 25 Beall Ave. "The community is too apprehensive about it," he said, and he added that the city lacks laws to control such an operation.
About 50 persons testified before the council on two pieces of legislation. One would ban the use of firearms in the city; the other would allow the operation of shooting ranges in some commercial and industrial zones outside the downtown area.
We don't want gun bearers moving in and out of our city," one speaker said. "If the city needs this type of attraction, why don't we look to legalization of gambling so we could attact the big spenders?"
But others, including some members of the National Rifle Association, refuted the argument that target shooters carrying guns to the range would pose a danger to the community at large. Under Maryland law, guns must be transported unloaded and in cases, an NRA spokesman pointed out.
"Shooting is a recognized sport in the Olympics," James Loveless said. "We have a chance here to train people how to safely use firearms, and to train future Olympians. People who purchase guns would have a place to learn how to use them."
Hanna called it "bad government" to outlaw the shooting range. "There is a law on the books permitting shooting ranges, and no one ever said a word against them until this proposal."
The plan submitted to the city by the owners of a Rockville gun shop, Shooters World Inc., would expand the store, adding a shooting range with space for 20 targets and a bullet-proof spectator area.
"If there had not been a public hearing and the range had gone in, I bet 99 percent of the citizens would never have known it was there," Hanna continued. "I recognize the arguments, but target shooting is a legitimate sport and I'd like to have a range in Rockville."
The council is expected to make its decision on the proposal in two weeks.