Lisa Gunther, owner of Gunther Guns, asks the Planning Commission to reconsider City Planner Don Neu’s decision to deny her a permit for a shooting range. Photo by Ellen Wright
Lisa Gunther, owner of Gunther Guns, asks the Planning Commission to reconsider City Planner Don Neu’s decision to deny her a permit for a shooting range. Photo by Ellen Wright
Carlsbad Community Community News

Denial of indoor shooting range in Carlsbad upheld

CARLSBAD — A sea of people in support of a recreational shooting range packed city chambers Wednesday night to express their support for a gun range in Carlsbad.

Last December, Lisa Gunther, owner of Gunther Guns, was denied a minor conditional use permit to open a shooting range at her store on Loker Avenue West.

She appealed her decision to the Planning Commission.

On Wednesday, they voted whether or not City Planner Don Neu made an error or abuse in discretion on his decision to deny the 17-lane recreational shooting range.

The commission’s votes were tied, which by default, upheld Neu’s decision.

The decision can now be appealed to the City Council, which Gunther said, she plans on doing.

According to Assistant City Attorney Jane Mobaldi, the City Council designates Neu to make decisions on zoning issues because he is the most familiar with the intended zones.

He denied the recreational shooting range because if the use isn’t specified in the city code, it’s generally not allowed.

“More than anything, our code lists quite a number of uses so it’s pretty rudimentary that if it’s not in there, typically it’s not permitted,” Neu said.

He said that he was further convinced that the unique nature of a recreational shooting range is not allowed in the light-use industrial zone where Gunther Guns is located because there are only six ranges in the county.

Gunther appealed by saying Neu’s decision was not supported by facts and said people use a shooting range for the same reasons they use a gym, indoor go-cart track, ice skating rink or swimming facility.

Neu denied the appeal because he determined that she didn’t show enough proof.

He also determined that a shooting range is not similar to those facilities because of safety concerns including air quality, noise and the use of lead, which is a hazardous material.

Dozens of people spoke in favor of the recreational shooting range.

Many said there are not enough ranges in the county and the closet one, Iron Sights in Oceanside, is always packed and has long waits.

People also said that it was denied because recreational shooting ranges have a negative and unsafe connotation.

Bill Ims of Carlsbad, said Neu likely doesn’t understand recreational shooting ranges.

“I do think a terrible error was made by the staff when they denied the request but I don’t think it was for any reason other than misunderstanding. Often times we fear most what we don’t understand,” said Ims.

Gunther said she was surprised the range was rejected because she met with Neu and Associate Planner Shannon Wernecke. She said there was no debate when she spoke with them about the project.

“You can imagine my surprise when I received a rejection letter on Christmas Eve 2014. I did not see that one coming,” Gunther said.

Commissioners Hap L’Heureux, Marty Montgomery and Neil Black voted against Neu’s decision because they said they believed he made an error in denying the range.

Chairperson Victoria Scully and Commissioners Velyn Anderson and Jeff Segall voted to uphold Neu’s decision.

Commissioner Kerry Siekmann excused herself from the vote because she did accounting for Gunther Guns and said she couldn’t provide an unbiased vote.

The appeal will now go in front of the City Council.


GK February 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Fantastic and impressive turnout – standing room only. Except for 1 loan voice at near the end of a 3+ hour meeting, the crowd was 100% in favor of the range. Even some of the commissioners were surprised by the turnout as well as some veterans of these types of public meetings and commented about it. You could feel a few of the dissenting commissioners would have liked to have noted “no” – so in favor of the appeal – but due to the confusing and pushy nature of the cities lawyer (even the commissioners needed 3-4 explanations on what they were voting on and what a yes/no vote would mean) making sure the vote was just about; did the City Planner “error” or “show abuse” of his position with his decision, their votes in the end did not mean they did not disagree with a recreational shooting range in Carlsbad. It solely meant that the “yes” votes believed the City Planner did not “error” or “show abuse” of his position with his decision so believed that yes, his opinion should stand.

It’s not over it. It seems clear that there is room yet to move on this topic and it was crystal clear public support was overwhelmingly in support of a safe recreational shooting range in Carlsbad. Let’s hope it goes in favor of the Gunthers, even if it takes some time and effort.

Rob Morse February 19, 2015 at 8:32 pm

What the city planner meant to say.. is we don’t like your kind of recreation. So sad his prejudices are showing.

Carlsbad Resident February 24, 2015 at 5:46 pm

We do not want or need a gun range in the middle of Carlsbad. I am a resident, and I will not support it.

Liz Cooke April 30, 2015 at 8:32 am

The council is hearing another appeal on May 5th. You can email the city council at if you’re not in support. The people who showed up at the last council meeting were in favor of the range – I’m assuming because no one else knew this was even on the agenda.

Cbad April 5, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Does anybody know what the latest is on the shooting range. I know the city counsel just aproved the Palomar Brewing Company in the same building. If the gun range is approved, would they open the range and brewery at the same time? Would you be able to go freely from the brewery side to the gun shooting side?

Ellen Wright May 4, 2015 at 9:53 am

There will be a city council meeting tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. where they’ll decide whether or not to approve the Planning Commission’s denial of the range.

Robert Jensen May 4, 2015 at 12:20 am

I think the shooting range in Carlsbad is a GREAT idea, and my friends and I would buy several memberships there.

It would also save us a TON of time, so we wouldn’t have to drive to Oceanside for a shooting range.

I support this idea 100%.

miamigunsinc May 19, 2015 at 2:50 am

bad news for carlsbed uphelds. shooting range in Carlsbad is a great idea because the lots of people who have to become an security guard officer.

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