published Friday, April 20th, 2012

Chickamauga Planning Commission rejects shooting range close to day care

Paul Chapman is confronted Thursday night by a parent opposed to  
Chapman's plan to open an outdoor gun range across LaFayette Road from  
the Academy for Little People child care center.
Paul Chapman is confronted Thursday night by a parent opposed to Chapman's plan to open an outdoor gun range across LaFayette Road from the Academy for Little People child care center.
Photo by Tim Omarzu.

CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. -- Tiffany Smolik cited her experience as a sniper in the U.S. Air Force to make a case against opening an outdoor gun range across from a day care center where her child is enrolled.

"Someone in my basic training got shot ... because someone was irresponsible," she said Thursday night in front of about 60 people at the Chickamauga Civic Center.

The audience was overwhelmingly against a proposal by Paul Chapman to build an outdoor shooting range behind a metal-sided building at 1568 LaFayette Road, across the road from the Academy for Little People Daycare.

"I will pull my child out of that day care. Every parent that I've talked to will pull their children out." Smolik said to loud applause.

The Chickamauga Planning Commission agreed and voted unanimously against rezoning the property. The commission's vote is only advisory; the matter goes before City Council at its May 7 meeting.

Chapman wants to lease the space not only for a shooting range but also for his 10-employee ammunition manufacturing business, North Georgia Firearms & Ammunition, which has outgrown its space in Fort Oglethorpe.

"I am not here to diminish anybody's business," he said, referring to the day care's opposition.

Audience members -- many of whom said they were gun owners themselves -- also expressed concern about such things as stray bullets hitting nearby homes, businesses and churches.

Chapman said the shooting range would be surrounded by a berm and sturdy railroad ties would prevent stray bullets.

Day care Director Sharon Armour presented the commissioners with 647 petition signatures opposing the range as well as news reports of recent accidents caused by stray bullets escaping other gun ranges, despite protective berms.

Audience members also questioned the amount of noise and smoke from the proposed range and the potential for an accident from the 200 to 300 pounds of smokeless powder Chapman keeps on hand to make handgun and rifle ammo.

"We live in Chickamauga because it's a quiet town, safe," a woman said. "Why should we be subjected to the noise?"

"Location, location, location," said another man, who promised he'd shoot at Chapman's range, provided it wasn't built near the daycare.

The daycare's children are outside almost all day, Armour said, and the gunfire they'd hear on the playground would be "the equivalent of a rock concert or a chainsaw."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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