Protest of gun club dominates Rancho Cordova council meeting

Students and parents packed Rancho Cordova’s City Council chambers Monday night to protest the city’s quiet approval months ago of the Sacramento Gun Club near the Waldorf-inspired George Washington Carver School of Arts and Science.

The five-member City Council listened to protests from speaker after speaker who live near the gun club, attend Carver or have children at the campus. While council members have said they can do little to stop the project as it nears completion, the council intends to review zoning regulations that permit gun-related businesses near schools.

The $6 million Sacramento Gun Club is about two months away from opening with an indoor shooting range, VIP lounge, coffee bar and retail sales. Rancho Cordova planning officials approved a building permit for the club in April.

City Council members, as well as officials at Carver and the Sacramento City Unified School District, said they were never informed of the project. City laws do not require such notification.

Council members said last week they sympathized with opponents but could not block the operation of gun club after it was legally permitted. Council members did not comment publicly Monday night.

Outside the meeting, Planning Director Paul Junker said the council has plans in the “next few months” to address the regulations at issue in the gun club’s approval.

“The council has discussed reviewing the zoning code that regulates uses,” Junker said. “I believe they have some interest in looking at gun-related uses as well as other compatible-use issues around schools.”

Before the meeting, a half-dozen picketers stood in front of City Hall carrying signs that read, “Schools should feel safe,” and “Legal? But Wrong Wrong Wrong.”

Inside council chambers, dozens spoke in front of a standing-room crowd of about 200 people.

Troy Hoang, a 17-year-old senior at Carver, asked council members why stores that sell tobacco and alcohol have to be 500 to 1,000 feet from schools, but not a gun club. Carver sits about 250 feet from the gun club.

“Who ever heard of a school massacre from someone wielding cigarettes?” Hoang asked the council.

Norman Ross Powers of Berkeley said his grandson is a freshman at Carver and his son-in-law teaches at the high school. He called the gun club an “unwelcome, profoundly inappropriate enterprise next door.”

“It’s an emergency because a decades-long history of murders and massacres in American schools has deeply traumatized our teaching fraternity,” Powers said.

But the gun club’s supporters said the fears were overstated. Danny Gonzalez of Sacramento said he plans to patronize the business.

“Never in my life have I seen statistics that a gun range will increase crime or danger to the community,” Gonzalez said. He cited one of the protest signs noting that guns and kids don’t mix.

“It’s not guns and kids that don’t mix,” he said. “It’s kids and violence.”

On Thursday night, trustees of the Sacramento City Unified School District, whose boundaries stretch into a slice of Rancho Cordova, unanimously approved a resolution asking the City Council to move the business.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect quote attributed to Danny Gonzales. The correct quote is, “It’s not guns and kids that don’t mix. It’s kids and violence.”

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