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Inglewood Shoots Down Move to Block Gun Club

March 24, 1994|SAMANTHA DUNN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Rejecting cries that a proposed firing range in Inglewood will let gangbangers sharpen their skills and teach children that guns are OK, the City Council voted 3 to 2 to deny a last-minute appeal to keep the gun club from opening.

By the same margin, the council had voted in December to allow businessman Sam Kash to open a firing range and gun club on Manchester Boulevard near the San Diego Freeway.

But in late February, Inglewood resident Albert Harris paid a $300 fee to bring the measure before the council again for a public hearing in the hopes that the proposal would be rejected the second time around.

"We don't need a place where people can go sharpen their skills and then go back on the street to harm our citizens," Harris told the council and the standing-room-only crowd of about 70 on Tuesday night. "There are too many families right now planning a funeral."

The gun club is expected to open next month.

More than two hours of comment on the issue often sounded like a debate on the 2nd Amendment or a Sunday sermon from the many church leaders on both sides of the issue.

Opponents feared the gun club would encourage citizens to take the law into their own hands, that youths might be able to use the range and that it would increase the city's crime rate.

"We need computer clubs, reading clubs, cultural awareness, not a gun club," resident Harold Turner said. "I find this ludicrous."

But proponents emphasized that the firing range would allow gun owners to learn safe use of their firearms and would be a magnet not for thugs but for police officers and security guards who have no other nearby place to practice.

The gun club's special permit requires responsible operation, Councilman Garland Hardeman said. The business must have a secured weapons check and record all serial numbers of firearms used and report them to police. The club will be able to rent weapons for firing practice but not sell them, he added.

"Business people should be able to come to the city and expect a resolution of a problem without going through hearing after hearing, and then have to go through the whole thing over again," said businessman Ken Gossett, adding that people who own guns have the right to use them in a legal, safe way.

Michael Jackson, a pastor at Resurrection Ministries in Inglewood, told the council to support the gun club because it would be a place for education. "No one has taught African American people how to use guns except the Army," he said.

"Why do we have drive-by shootings where people come and spray, and everybody gets killed but the intended victim? Because nobody really ever taught them how to use a gun or what the purpose is of a gun," the pastor said.

Mayor Edward Vincent, who voted for the club along with councilmen Hardeman and Jose Fernandez, told the audience to remember that the club is a private enterprise and not a city project. "Let's be realistic," he said. "People own guns. That's not going to change."

But council members Judith L. Dunlap and Curren D. Price Jr. remained opposed to the club and the use and transportation of firearms within the city.

"I think the use of guns sends the wrong message to youths and others," Price said. "Guns are extraordinarily dangerous things even in the hands of those who are well-trained, careful and responsible."

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