Harrison County

Officials were ‘up in arms’ over gun ranges in Gulfport. A decision has been made.

The owner of Dad’s Super Pawn wants to build a shooting range on his property, which is in the heart of Gulfport’s business corridor on U.S. 49.

Kevin Riley said he plans to upgrade the facade at Dad’s, demolish the back portion of his large building and add at the back of his lot a 20,000-square-foot shooting range.

It’ll cost Riley between $2 million to $3 million, he said.

The proposal to allow gun ranges — with Planning Commission approval — would apply not only to his property but to other light industrial properties in the city.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved a change to city ordinances on Thursday afternoon that would permit gun ranges, with approval, in two industrial zones. The ordinance already allows the ranges in a third industrial zone and two general business zones, again with Planning Commission approval.

The councilwoman who represents the area, Ella Holmes-Hines, did not even realize the proposal was on the Planning Commission agenda. The agenda item reads: Zoning Text Amendment 1903PC025, by City of Gulfport, Amendments to Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, as amended, Section III. District Regulations, (J) Chart of permitted uses, (2)Schedule of Uses.

Holmes-Hines emailed the administration for more information and was not happy about what she learned Thursday morning. She called the mayor, who was unaware of the proposal.

“This did not come from the mayor or the administration,” Holmes-Hines said. “It came from (Councilwoman) Cara Pucheu — for my ward.”

Holmes-Hines opposes a change that would allow shooting ranges in all light-industrial areas because those areas sit beside neighborhoods in her ward, Ward 3.

“Dad’s Pawn Shop should be a standalone request,” she said. “It should not be a citywide request. Others would like to do that, I’m sure. But they’re adjacent to neighborhoods.

“This should have been done with some communication, some notice.

“This is not how you do it. I think it’s wrong to do this for one person, citywide. I would hope the city wouldn’t put shooting ranges near neighborhoods.”

Pucheu, who represents Ward 7, said Riley has been a friend of hers since elementary school and she believes in his project.

“It’s truly just allowing a gun range, or a type of gun range, in any industrial zone with Planning Commission approval,” Pucheu said. “It’s just not that big of a deal. We can control it.

“They can’t just come in by right and do it, so it’s OK. It’s not anything to get up in arms about. Sorry about the pun there.”

She said she simply introduced Riley to city officials, but Holmes-Hines and a member of the administration said Pucheu proposed the ordinance change.

Riley said he has been working on the project for awhile. He hopes to break ground in the next few months and complete construction by year’s end. The property sits between 31st and 32nd avenues.

“There is a demand for it, a large demand,” he said. He plans to have competitions on the weekends, bringing in gun enthusiasts from other areas.

The range would offer gun safety classes, with two classrooms. There would be shooting ranges for handguns and long guns.

No gun noise would be audible outside the building, Riley said.

Pucheu said gun enthusiasts will be spending their money of the Coast during the weekend competitions. She said the gun range and renovated pawn shop also would improve the aesthetics of the aging commercial area.

“I just think it’s going to be a very positive thing for the area,” she said. “It’s going to bring economic development to that area and it will bring jobs to the area.”

Anita Lee is a Mississippi native who specializes in investigative, court and government reporting. She has covered South Mississippi’s biggest stories in her decades at the Sun Herald, including the Dixie Mafia, public corruption and Hurricane Katrina, a Pulitzer Prize-winning effort. Nothing upsets her more than government secrecy and seeing people suffer.
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