Gun range proposed in Aiken has some up in arms

Gun range in Aiken
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News 12 at First at Five / Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- G.L. Brightharp and Sons Mortuary sits off Beaufort Street in a quieter part of Aiken.

"We picked this location because of the isolation, and the quietness, and the serenity of this location," said Timothy Brightharp, who works there.

Last month, Brightharp found out his funeral home's new neighbor could be an indoor gun range.

"Gunfire doesn't provide serenity," he said.

The City of Aiken just approved indoor gun ranges within city limits, but this proposed gun range, and possibly others in the future, will have to get approved through the Board of Zoning Appeals.

"I think the fear factor will probably come out in the BZA meeting, but the BZA is not supposed to make decisions based on fear factors -- they're supposed to make decisions based on law," said Wade Brodie, the chairman of the Aiken Corporation.

Brodie owns the building and plans to sell the spec building to an investor to build the gun range.

"If you're going to own a gun, you need to know how to safely use it," he said.

Brodie says a range in Aiken would mean people there won't have to drive to Augusta or Columbia. He also says it'd make the area safer, and he says neighbors of the building won't even hear the gunfire if the range is properly designed.

"Most of the citizens I've talked to are not for the gun range," said Brightharp, who isn't convinced.

He says the area around the range is largely African-American, and it already struggles with gun violence. He says his business, a funeral home, might be adversely affected, too.

"The gunshots would be very traumatic for, let's say we have a family of a gunshot victim and, all of a sudden, they heard gunfire. I'm sure that would be a very traumatic experience for those family members," Brightharp said.

There's also a somewhat noisy concrete plant nearby.

Councilwoman Lessie Price has even said the Department of Justice might have to get involved. However, Brodie and others say noise from the facility won't be a problem, and they say with more people knowing their guns, the community actually becomes safer.

The plan will go before the Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the Municipal Building (214 Park Ave SW) in Aiken. A large crowd is expected from both sides of the debate.

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