Final OK to Elgin gun range, both sides inflamed
The Elgin City Council gave its expected final seal of approval Wednesday to a gun range on the west side.
The 5-4 vote came with conditions, such as no references to guns on outside signage. The council also tightened its gun dealers ordinance by limiting hours of operation and requiring additional security measures and a written signoff by the police department.
Dozens of residents, gun enthusiasts from neighboring communities and activists from Evanston and Chicago spoke at the last three council meetings about plans for the Fox Valley Shooting Club at 780 S. McLean Blvd.
Opponents said the gun range and shop would be detrimental to the neighborhood and to kids in a building across the street taking part in programs by Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and Elgin Area School District U-46.
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said a preschool program will move when the lease ends July 31, 2018.
Easter Seals CEO Theresa Forthofer said a committee will assess whether to stay within the next few months. The decision also will hinge on whether children's families leave the program, she said.
Businessman Mark Glavin said the club will be "a nice, upscale" facility expected to open in spring 2018. "I talked to the best of the best of engineers to find out how to do this thing safely," he said.
Forthofer said a gun range supporter posted on Facebook, "We use clubs for baby seals, not guns."
"If you wonder why some of my families are scared, are concerned and don't know what to expect, you put that on social media."
Councilwoman Rose Martinez, who voted "yes" to the plan, said opponents used "scare tactics" such as one person sending her 17 emails. Councilman Rich Dunne, who also voted in the majority, said he was called "a war monger." Dunne served as a U.S. Air Force medic in Operation Desert Storm.
Councilwoman Tish Powell, who voted against the gun range, said her colleagues caved in to the fear of potential lawsuits despite the wishes of residents. "Some things are worth fighting for," she said.
Council members Carol Rauschenberger and Corey Dixon and Mayor David Kaptain also voted against the gun range.
Councilman John Steffen said he "reluctantly" supported the gun range, and pointed to court decisions in lawsuits lost by the city of Chicago, which attempted to first ban, then limit, gun ranges.
Lee Shull, who said he lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and is working in Chicago, exhorted the city council to evaluate the risks. He has friends whose daughter was murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, he said.
"I accept that firearms are part of our culture and they are here to stay," he said. "However, we need to be more responsible with our firearms."