Indoor shooting range drawing criticism in North Hills

MCCANDLESS, Pa. — An indoor shooting range is drawing controversy among some residents in McCandless.

Midwest Shooting Center, described on its website as a “state-of-the art, modern indoor shooting center” appears to be opening any day now in McCandless Crossing, with signs on the property stating “accepting memberships” now. But not everyone is happy.

“It’s a completely inappropriate place for a shooting range, first of all it’s very close to many businesses,” said Sister Mary Traupman with the Sisters of Divine Providence.

Traupman is also a member of a local group called the “Coalition for Safe Community Spaces” which formed in response to a now-shuttered shooting range that had occupied the same property within the open-air plaza.

The group had requested that the town re-zone the space after that center closed in 2020, to prohibit yet another shooting range from moving in. The property is located just below the main shopping plaza, near the Greek Orthodox church, and across the road from UPMC Passavant, the Sisters of Divine Providence and a school.

“Our coalition is not anti-gun, is not anti-Second Amendment and is not even anti-shooting range,” said coalition member and retired pastor Ron Hoellein. “Our position is, a shooting range in this location is a public safety consideration.”

“It’s right across the road from an elementary school,” Traupman said. “Kids come and go, it’s pre-k-8, little kids and buses turn up the drive, right across the street. It’s just a terrible location, a terrible image, and there are other places in McCandless where a shooting range could be placed.”

With that said, the coalition believes the business location is violating a federal law that prohibits a loaded gun from being within a certain distance of a school.

We asked the town about that.

Public Information Officer John Bojarski stated “The Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 establishes a 1,000-foot perimeter around schools as a zone where loaded and/or unsecured firearms are not permitted, with certain exceptions. Law enforcement officers, privately contracted security, and individuals licensed to carry a concealed firearm, for example, are exempt from this restriction. Private properties within the 1,000-foot zone, including businesses such as Midwest Shooting Center, also are exempt.”

“We think that is an overly-generous interpretation of that exemption,” Hoellein said.

But according to Bojarski, “the review and consideration of the application of Midwest Shooting Center to operate on Providence Boulevard is occurring in accordance with all local, state and federal regulations in place.”

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The spokesman stated that council currently does not plan to re-zone the space, and that the shooting range is currently permitted under “indoor recreation center” use.

“If a use is permitted in a zoning district under the ordinances currently in force and an applicant complies with all requirements and standards, the Town cannot deny a permit on a case-by-case basis,” Bojarski said.

Messages sent to the Midwest Shooting Center for comment were not returned at the time this article was published.

Channel 11 approached a shopper within the complex Tuesday. He stated the shooting range’s presence didn’t make him feel less safe.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I mean, I think it really has to be thought out, I just don’t want them to open up without any checks and balances thrown in,” the shopper said. “I think if there’s some dialogue it will work itself out. I’m not a big proponent of guns, but I don’t oppose them for responsible people.”