Board shoots down proposed Aiken gun range

Gun range in Aiken
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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- One person spoke in support of a proposed gun range, but everyone else aimed to shoot it down.

The Aiken Corporation was looking to sell a large building in the Willow Run Industrial Park in North Aiken to businessman Michael Kramer, who planned to build a public indoor shooting range.

Because of the property’s zoning, he first needed the approval of the City of Aiken’s Board of Zoning Appeals to build the range. On Tuesday night, he did not get that approval.

After about three hours of heated discussion, Vice-Chair Judy Turner asked for a motion. After a long pause, Turner asked again, and board member Jane Page Thompson finally spoke up and moved to deny the request to build a gun range at the location off Beaufort Street. Thompson said even though she supports a gun range and is a firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment, she says this range would affect the North Aiken community in adverse ways. She said it would possibly hamper the development of land around the industrial park. She said it’s land that could someday see the development of more houses.

The board unanimously voted with Thompson. Member Nancy Dukes cited similar concerns as did Pat Paterniti.

The decision came after heated objections from people such as Rep. Bill Clyburn, Aiken County Councilman Willar Hightower and Aiken City Councilwoman Gail Diggs, among many others. Many of them said the largely African-American community needs a more positive business than a gun range.

“If this is the best the city can offer us business-wise, they can keep it,” said Councilwoman Diggs, reading a comment from a friend who lives in the community near the proposed site.

There were also health and noise concerns, too.

The G.L. Brightharp & Sons Mortuary is located across the street from the proposed site, and the Brightharp family indicated that it was very concerned about the possibility of hearing gunshots during funeral services.

The board asked Kramer if the gun range could close during funeral services, but Kramer said that would not be possible. He says the walls would be thick enough to prevent neighboring properties from hearing gunshots in the first place.

Ultimately, the board didn’t take that chance.

Kramer says that he’ll try again with another location and told News 12 that the Board of Zoning Appeals hasn’t seen the last of him.

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