Assembly tweaks ordinance to allow private gun ranges

Dan Miller, president of Juneau Mercantile and Armory, speaks at Wednesday’s CBJ Assembly meeting. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO News

The Juneau Assembly has cleared the way for a private shooting range near the airport, where customers will be able to fire machine guns and other automatic weapons.

Assembly members voted unanimously on Wednesday to exempt private gun ranges from a city ordinance that prohibits discharging a firearm within a quarter mile of a road.

Current exceptions exist for police officers in the line of duty, the use of shotguns in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge, as well as other types of firearms at the Hank Harmon Rifle Range and Juneau Gun Club Range, both of which are operated by nonprofits. Facilities operated by the state or federal governments are also exempt.

Dan Miller is president of Juneau Mercantile and Armory, LLC, which is planning a 13,000 square foot indoor shooting range and gun store on the corner of Crest Street and Yandukin Drive.

“The first half of the range we’re building is going to have a static firing line,” said Dan Miller. ”In other words, people will stand at one spot and shoot towards targets. We’ll have a total containment bullet trap. The entire basement is encased in concrete. Noise and safety won’t be an issue.”

Miller said every customer who rents an automatic weapon will have a handler making sure they know how to use it and are shooting it properly.

The Assembly also heard from Mark Miller – no relation to Dan – who read a statement opposing the type of range being proposed.

“AK-47s, machine guns, and other assault weapons are just that – assault weapons, said Mark Miller. They are designed and intended for assault operations. Assault is the stuff of police and military action, and as such requires a chain of command, ultimately responsible to elected officials serving the citizens for whom they are sworn to protect. Please do not place our police and military personnel, and our citizens in more danger by promoting assault weapons as casual entertainment for the general public.”

In his comments, Dan Miller of Juneau Mercantile and Armory said private shooting ranges in other communities are popular with off duty police and military employees.

The company applied to the Juneau Planning Commission for a conditional use permit. But city planners who reviewed the proposal noted that it would not comply with the CBJ gun ordinance.

The project must go back to the Planning Commission for approval before it can move forward.