The Ramsey City Council Tuesday gave Total Defense the final approval it needs to move its business and add a new indoor shooting range to a vacant building.
Total Defense has been based in the Ramsey shopping center on the northeast corner of Highway 47 and Bunker Lake Boulevard since owners Dan Wellman and Kurt Ochs founded the company in 2011. They offer conceal and carry gun permit courses, self-defense classes and sell weapons and clothing.
The new location at 6001 167th Ave. NW is a stand-alone building that has more than 10 times the space. They plan to have a 10-lane indoor shooting range to start, but the building is large enough to add another 10 lanes, they said.
The new location is right next to Little Me Childcare.
The council Jan. 28 unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the business, but approval was contingent upon a city ordinance being amended to allow indoor commercial recreation as a conditional use on parcels on the north and south side of 167th Avenue NW and Highway 47. The ordinance notes that indoor shooting ranges fall into this category.
The ordinance amendment was approved 5-2 with Councilmembers Jill Johns and John LeTourneau voting no. Both had expressed concerns Jan. 28 before approving the conditional use permit.
“I don’t think it’s a public safety issue. It’s a business compatibility issue,” said Johns, who is the Ward One representative for that area of Ramsey.
Little Me Childcare Owner Amber Brick said at the Feb. 11 council meeting that she supports the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but is concerned about the proximity of an indoor shooting range to her business.
Brick wrote in a letter the city received Feb. 4 that due to the recent school shootings, “parents are much more mindful of firearms in proximity of their children. Parents entrust me with their children’s safety, and how safe can they feel when guns are being bought, sold, traded and fired within 50 feet of my facility.”
The council chambers Feb. 11 was packed with people on both sides of the issue.
Ramsey resident Kenneth Shank said he and his wife recently went on what he called a “guns and roses” date night with a couples from Champlin and Oak Grove. They drove to Bill’s Gun Shop & Range in Robbinsdale. They had to wait their turn because the place was packed. They spent over $100 at the gun range before spending around $250 at a nearby restaurant.
Shank said he would not spend this kind of money every week or month, but said this story illustrates Total Defense would not be the only business to benefit.
Chris Weiss of Ramsey said the shopping center has gone quiet since the days he worked at Danners Cabinet Shop. He said the doors would often be open in the summer.
“I’m no expert, but I think the noise from the gun range will be minimal compared to the cabinet shop during the summer,” Weiss said.
The city also received multiple phone calls and emails from people concerned about having an indoor shooting range so close to a childcare center.
“As an avid hunter and gun owner, I am all for conceal and carry, people receiving their gun safety and I am sure once my kids get older, they too will be taking those courses … just not next to a day care,” Cassie Oslund wrote in a Feb. 6 letter to the city. Her children attend the child care center.
Included in the ordinance are stipulations that indoor shooting range owners must follow. It must comply with the city’s nuisance codes. There can be no outdoor storage associated with the shooting range. All firearms not in use in the indoor firing range must be unloaded and properly cased. The shooting range must be equipped with a ventilation system that filters out potential lead contaminants prior to exhausting to the exterior of the building. Controlled access to the shooting range must be maintained at all times. Hours of operation would be negotiated during the conditional use permit process. Any weapon stored overnight must be properly secured. The Ramsey Police Chief would direct how this should be done during the conditional use permit review.
The 18,000-square-foot building already had 12-inch concrete walls. The new interior walls will be eight inches of solid grout filled concrete masonry, according to a city staff report,
“I totally feel this will be a safe environment,” Councilmember Mark Kuzma said.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org