Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ruth: Will Tarpon Springs be known for gyros or guns?

Well, we're all about to have some way big fun now!

If all goes according to plan, within a year or so Tarpon Springs will be home to one of the biggest indoor gun ranges in the Southeast.

The Reload Gun Range calls for a 57,533-square-foot building that will house 45 various shooting ranges from 100 yards all the way down to 15-yard distances for gun-happy Floridians to hone their "stand your ground" skills bumping off teenagers playing music too loudly or feloniously walking through apartment complexes armed with ice tea and Skittles, or perhaps exacting justice on people who — with full premeditation — dare to text their child's babysitter while sitting in a movie theater.

To be sure, many of Tarpon Springs' city fathers are absolutely gaga about the prospect of welcoming the Reload Gun Range into their midst. And why not, since the 4-acre property on U.S. 19 near Klosterman Road has sat mostly empty with a dilapidated motel and a long-shuttered restaurant on the site.

What? A bowling alley was too uncool?

Now, with a going concern moving in, the land will once again generate property taxes. But if merely adding to the tax base is Tarpon Springs' concern, would city officials equally warmly embrace a mega-stripper club, the world headquarters of the Aryan Nations, or perhaps a Ted Nugent's House of Morons franchise?

This was probably inevitable.

After all, Florida is literally awash in guns, leading the nation with more than 1 million concealed-carry gun permits issued throughout the state. It's nothing short of amazing that more parents aren't naming their newborns Uzi, Colt or Baretta. Glock has a nice ring to it.

And thus we have all these folks running around the state armed more to the gills than Rambo, fearful that at any moment some fiend may lunge from behind a shrubbery to do them harm or perhaps have the audacity to make an inconvenient left-hand turn worthy of the death penalty.

So it only makes perfect, mercenary sense that a business would arise to exploit the need of all these trigger-happy folks. This is a perfect example of cross hairs meeting demand.

Still, before the Tarpon Springs honchos get all swoony over the prospect of the Reload Gun Range and the anticipated property tax lucre it will add to the city's exchequer, a simple question.

Let's all stipulate the Second Amendment right to have a gun. Fine. Very nice.

But does Tarpon Springs really want to have some kind of Disney World of Smith & Wesson in its midst, where scores of gun-toting types from all over the state and certainly the region will now be descending on the city to blast away with their li'l friends?

Ahem, let's face it, while a vast majority of gun owners are reasonable and responsible, we know all too well in this state that there are some people dumber than a sack of spittoons — with anger management issues, no less — who are armed and cranky. And they want somewhere to practice shooting the next movie theater texter who raises their ire.

This is a good idea? Really?

Does the city want to be viewed on a per capita basis as one of the most heavily armed communities in the state?

Some gun proponents might celebrate that reputation. But there are probably just as many residents of one of Florida's most charming and unique communities who would rather the historic association with Greek culture be what people associate with Tarpon Springs.

Or put another way, does Tarpon Springs want to be associated with opa! or kaboom? Gyros or Rugers? Moussaka or Mossberg? Bouzoukis or Bushmasters?

All cities yearn for economic development. But at what price?

When the guns are blazing away at the Reload Gun Range and the streets are populated by people packing heat, will it still be worth it to the city fathers of Tarpon Springs who sold off a piece of their town's identity for 30 pieces of lead?

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