The first gun range and gun store within the city limits of Washington, D.C. is scheduled to open within the next year.
DC Gun Range and DC Guns and Ammo will be located under the same roof at a site on Queens Chapel Road in the city's northeast quadrant. They will be a short distance from the National Arboretum in a neighborhood that features a number of restaurants and nightclubs.
Currently, the city of more than 600,000, which has enacted some of the strictest gun control measures in the country, does not have a single gun store or public shooting range.
Leon Spears, the first and one of the few people certified by the Metro Police Department as a gun carry instructor, is hoping to change that. Spears owns the company developing the range and gun store. Despite hostility to guns from many city officials, Spears said the government has not yet tried to stop his project.
"The government hasn't really given me any flack," Spears told the Washington Free Beacon. "It hasn't been an easy process but it hasn't been difficult. It's just tedious."
The gun range will house 30 shooting lanes, with 24 open to the public on a daily basis and the other six reserved for private instruction. The facility will offer rentals, gun lockers, classrooms for training, a café, an observation area, self-sustaining solar power, private gated parking with special spaces for electric cars, and a lounge area. "It's going to be more like a club feel," Spears said. "It's not going to be … where the average Joe is going to feel uncomfortable, but it's not going to be a hole in the wall place by any means. I'm just going to try to make DC proud. That's really the goal."
Operating a range that's pleasing to the community is a top priority for Spears. "We're going to do it up," he said. "I don't want people's expectations to be disappointed. I want people to have pride. This is our range. We don't have to leave the city anymore."
Spears said the range will be a one-stop shop for law-abiding gun owners in the District, and will employ as many as 20 people. "We're going to be a gun store and a range," Spears said. "There'll be gun sales, rentals, transfers, and ammo sales. We're going to be about a 20-employee operation when fully staffed."
The planned range has already caused some concern among public officials, though. "If two nightclubs make residents uncomfortable, I can’t imagine how a gun range would make people feel," Walter DeLeon, a neighborhood commissioner whose district includes the planned range site, told the Washington City Paper. The paper also expressed concern that the proposed range would be located near a proposed homeless shelter, which it said might "complicate" the shelter proposal.
Spears said he anticipated opposition to his plan but believes people will come around to it. "I know there will be people that love the concept," he said. "I know there will be people that hate the concept. I really believe it's not going to be 50/50. I believe it'll be 80/20. That's my expectation in my heart of hearts."
"Most people will love the idea that it's providing a forum for people to express their right to keep and bear arms."