Newtown gun debate draws in talk of Auburn indoor shooting range

$1 million construction cost points directors to private funding
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The Auburn Recreation District board was already on course to discuss the possibility of an indoor shooting range in Auburn before the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn. elementary school gun assault that left 27 people dead.

And one board member – Jim Gray – objected to even discussing the topic with a nation’s wounds so deep from the tragedy and still healing.

But the board went ahead with a discussion Thursday on a possible $1 million construction expenditure that ended with no decision but Director Scott Holbrook promising to pursue a potential private benefactor to fund a project.

Possible sites put forward by Recreation District staff included the Auburn Airport Industrial Park, where several buildings are currently unoccupied. The closest indoor range is in Grass Valley and the nearest outdoor range is in Lincoln.

“Due to the growing popularity of firearms, particularly in Placer County, a more centrally located, easily accessible range is needed,” Administrative Service Manager Joe Fecko reported.

But with one estimate of $1 million, not including land, Holbrook – who initially proposed the indoor range – said the district doesn’t have the funding.

“I’m still going to continue with private businesses to look into the shooting range,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook added that it was hard to believe lead and chemical abatement requirements that would be built into the costs.

Gray was elected new chairman to replace Holbrook for the coming year. Holbrook was chairing his final meeting.

“It’s inappropriate right now to discuss the firing range,” Gray said. “It could be pushed back a month due to what happened on the East Coast, I don’t feel compelled to be discussing a shooting range. When part of the county is grieving, with so many children, we’re talking about a firing range.”

Gray’s suggestion to table discussion until next month’s meeting “out of respect” was not acted on.

Holbrook said he thinks a shooting range could save lives.

“I learned to shoot at a recreation district as a kid,” Holbrook said. “I mean, this is about kids. I feel that something like this can lead to saving lives if we have a proper place for families to safely learn how to operate weapons.”

Director Gordy Ainsleigh sided with Holbrook, adding that if the indoor range didn’t work out, he knew of a possible outdoor shooting range the district might consider on land off Iowa Hill Road.

Ainsleigh said he had sent links to be disseminated by directors showing a school district in Texas that arms some employees with concealed weapons.

While Holbrook advised Ainsleigh he was “drifting a bit” and that he wanted to keep politics out of the discussion, Ainsleigh went on to say that the Texas district’s policy indicates parents want children in gun-guarded schools.

“All of our nation is obviously looking for solutions so these gun massacres don’t happen and this is obviously part of the solution, part of the consideration on how this nation is going to stop these shooters,” Ainsleigh said.

Ainsleigh’s observations came hours before the National Rifle Association’s press conference calling on schools to be protected by armed law-enforcement.

The NRA stance was quickly countered by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who issued a statement that she supports stricter state and federal legislation including Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s effort to pass a federal assault weapons ban.

“Instead of reckless calls to saturate our schools with guns, we should remove guns from the hands of dangerous people,” Harris said. “California is the only state with a strong program that identifies and disarms prohibited persons, which should serve as a national model.”