Monday’s gun range appeal before the Juneau Assembly drew a big audience.

Construction of a gun store and indoor shooting range remains on hold as the Juneau Assembly determines whether the Planning Commission properly issued a conditional use permit for the facility.

Juneau Veterans for Peace Monday argued the Planning Commission did not consider public health and safety, or the CBJ comprehensive plan, before  approving the Juneau Mercantile and Armory permit.

Veterans for Peace has appealed the permit, which was granted in December just before a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school made gun control a national issue.

But the group’s  president Phil Smith said the appeal is not about gun rights.

“We are not at all into taking apart the Second Amendment,” Smith said.

Planning Commissioner Dan Miller is a co-owner of Juneau Mercantile and Armory, a limited liability company.  Miller recused himself during the December vote on the conditional use permit.

Juneau Veterans for Peace president Phil Smith told the Juneau Assembly that it should send the permit back to the Planning Commission to consider health and public safety issues of the shooting range.

Smith said the Planning Commission’s record of decision leaves safety plans unanswered, including the opinion of public safety professionals.  The record shows the CBJ Community Development Department staff had only a conversation with someone from the Juneau Police Department.

“Perhaps with a policeman, perhaps with a clerk, perhaps with a dispatcher, I don’t know, maybe they called 911.  But there was no indication with whom they spoke.  The police said they had no concerns about the facility, or we’re told the police said that.  But there’s nothing in the record that has anything in writing from the authority of the Juneau Police Department,” Smith told the Assembly. “There is no indication in the record that they contacted any other law enforcement entity.  They didn’t contact anyone with particularized expertise in the handling and control of these types of weapons.”

Juneau Mercantile and Armory’s 13,000 square foot facility at Crest Street and Yandukin Drive will house retail sales on the top floor as well as rentals of firearms to be used in the underground firing range, including machine guns and other automatic weapons.

Smith, a Vietnam-era veteran, called them “weapons of war.”

The Assembly plays a quasi-judicial role in the case, but can only consider whether the Planning Commission – which looks at land use – properly considered outside impacts of the facility.  Community Development Planner Greg Chaney told Assembly members he believes the gun range will be one of the most carefully supervised shooting facilities in Juneau.

“What are the outside impacts in this case? The noise is going to be contained. The bullets are going to be contained, that’s always big one, with shooting ranges.  The main concerns end up being traffic and that sort of thing; the normal things you would look at with a building that’s fully enclosed,” Chaney said.  “So I believe after listening to the appellants that they really wanted the Planning Commission to act in a legislative capacity and to pass a conditional use permit with conditions that would have the effect of changing the law of firearm use.”

After Monday’s hearing the Assembly went into executive session with the city attorney to discuss the arguments.  Assembly member Loren Jones is the hearing officer for the appeal.  He said it will be the end of April before the decision is made public.



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