Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Residents fiercely debate proposed Tarpon Springs gun range

TARPON SPRINGS — A town hall meeting that drew nearly two dozen residents and observers to the Tarpon Springs Community Center on Tuesday night erupted into a shouting match over a large indoor gun range planned for the U.S. 19 corridor.

The forum about Reload Gun Range, a nearly 60,000-square-foot facility being touted as one of the largest and most advanced in the Southeast, was organized by Arthur Hayhoe, executive director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Hayhoe, who opposes the range, kicked off the meeting by presenting information about restrictions on Florida cities' ability to enforce local gun laws, which he believes would hamper authorities in policing the range's clientele. He accused city officials of attempting to "push through" a vote on the range without input from churches, hospitals or residents. He called for the matter to be decided by voter referendum. "We think that the city owes the public an open forum to determine if they want this kind of facility there. Build us a family-oriented facility that celebrates life. All these people in there are going to be celebrating death," said Hayhoe, 83, of Wesley Chapel.

The comment touched off a nearly hourlong debate between range supporters and opponents, during which several people stormed out. Supporters argued that the range amounts to a "business decision" that would generate tax revenue and eliminate a vacant motel and restaurant that have blighted the property for a decade.

"It's people, not guns, that kill," said Mark Jones, a 63-year-old life member of the National Rifle Association who plans to use the range.

"You're talking about gun safety. What better way than to have a gun range, a professional place where people can go to learn the appropriate way to handle guns?" asked lifelong Tarpon resident Nick Geriakos, 48.

Lake Tarpon resident Kay Pitchon, 66, said she's not worried about educated gun users. Rather, she fears an influx of concealed weapons holders who might try to settle a dispute over loud music or texting with a gun.

Peter Grace, 62, of the Tarpon Shores community, said the "stand your ground" law might protect anyone who took matters into their own hands.

Tim Keffalas, a Pinellas County Commission candidate from Tarpon, criticized opponents for not being "proactive" in becoming involved in range discussions early on. But they argued that they only learned of the issue after the Tampa Bay Times reported this month on the first vote by city staff.

Reload Gun Range has already won the support of city staff and Tarpon's Planning and Zoning Board. The City Commission will consider final approval April 15.

Grace reminded people that residents in the past managed to rally enough opposition to cancel plans for a waterfront Walmart.

"If we don't want a gun range here, let (city commissioners) know. We'll mobilize," he said, drawing applause.

Residents fiercely debate proposed Tarpon Springs gun range 03/25/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 11:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium

    Bucs

    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  2. Memorial for Snooty the manatee, postponed because of Irma, to be held Sunday

    Wildlife

    A public memorial to celebrate the life of 69-year-old Snooty the manatee will be held at the South Florida Museum on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

    Snooty , the world's most celebrated manatee, begs for another slice of apple in his pool in the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 2008. Snooty was 60 then. [Times 2008]
  3. Residents wade through a flooded road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017. Because of the heavy rains brought by Maria, thousands of people were evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. [Associated Press]
  4. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem

    Bucs

    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  5. New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two still-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 people.

    Locals play pool at a venue in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, four days after the 7.1 earthquake. The upscale Mexico City neighborhood was one of the hardest hit, with more than a half-dozen collapsed buildings in the immediate vicinity. The few Condesa residents who ventured out Friday night said they were anxious for relief from an anguishing week. [Associated Press]