City agrees to allow businesses to discharge guns for training, sporting events

Friday, December 22, 2017

Two local businesses hope to boost tourism and provide a training environment for military and law enforcement agencies and other groups by creating areas for the use of Airsoft guns.

At their last regular meeting of 2017 on Tuesday, Fort Scott City Commissioners approved waiver of a section of the city’s ordinance on discharging weapons after hearing a request from representatives of Fort Scott Munitions and East Wall Properties Company. Commissioners heard from Daniel French and Dustin Doherty regarding a plan by the companies to provide tactical training and areas for individuals and groups to use Airsoft guns for recreational purposes.

Airsoft is a competitive team sport in which participants use plastic pellets referred to as “BBs.”

The two companies own the properties to be used, which consist of about 32 acres. French and Doherty said they wish to develop a military-grade training site for law enforcement, as well as create a tourism attraction for people looking for training, team-building and entertainment using Airsoft equipment.

The waiver approved by the commission would allow Airsoft rifles to be used on the defined properties located at 106 N. Hill and 301 N. Hill streets.

Fort Scott Police Chief Travis Shelton said it is illegal to discharge firearms within the city limits. City ordinance states the exception being “in defense of person or property, or by duly authorized police or peace officers or persons duly authorized by the chief of police of the city, in writing, to so discharge the same.”

By waiving a certain section of the ordinance for the two properties, “they can move ahead with their plan,” Shelton said.

Shelton said police officers talked with nearby businesses and other officials and also looked at safety precautions.

The section that would be waived, regarding discharging certain weapons, states that “the discharging of air rifles, slingshots and bows and arrows by any person within the limits of the city is prohibited.”

Director of Economic Development Rachel Pruitt said the companies have a “big investment with the property” and “this is an untapped part of the industry” that is usually found in larger cities.

“And it’s very safe, the structures and everything are top-of-the-line and safe,” Pruitt said.

Shelton said he has talked with representatives of the companies and they are “up on training” requirements for the equipment.

Commissioner Randy Nichols asked French and Doherty to elaborate on how the areas will be used.

“Airsoft is becoming more and more popular as a recreational event,” Doherty said.

Doherty said some larger Airsoft events in other areas have drawn as many as 300 civilians as participants. He said participants can use skills in a game format, or for training purposes.

Doherty said activities will be supervised and officials have taken the proper safety precautions, such as placement of signs. Equipment used for activities will be inspected prior to use.

“It will be open to multiple officers and SWAT teams across the region,” Doherty said.

Addressing the concern about possible noise, Doherty said Airsoft guns are “much quieter” than regular firearms. The pellets also travel a distance of about 200 feet, French said.

Commissioner Jim Adams thanked the companies for their “leg work and investment” in the community.

Other business

• During the commission comments portion of the meeting, Commissioner Cindy Bartelsmeyer said it is “fun to be a part of growth” in Fort Scott.

Commissioner Jean Parker said city officials are “working for a vision of Fort Scott.”

“With rural towns, if you don’t have vision and someone to promote it, it’s dying,” she said.

Nichols said he is “impressed” with growth and development in Fort Scott, and that “people outside Fort Scott see that investment.”

“It’s encouraging,” he said. “But to continue to move forward, we need people for it.”

Nichols broached the idea of having an evaluation done on property taxes in the community and their impact on economic development “in the long run.” Nichols asked city officials to look into the issue of property taxes, and about the possibility of bringing in a consultant to look into local entities working together to help reduce local taxes.