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Public shooting opportunities indoors may be about to triple in Buffalo Niagara as construction continues toward a June completion date for an indoor range in the Village of Depew, with yet another range coming up for approval Thursday before the West Seneca Planning Board.

West Seneca developer Ransier Development Corp. announced its intent to seek a special-use permit for a 27,000-square-foot indoor shooting range on a parcel at the North America Center on North America Drive. The range, if approved, will allow for long gun, handgun and bow shooting, according to the developer’s plans.

It’s something West Seneca town officials are hailing as “a positive economic development opportunity.”

“It’s filling a need,” said Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan, adding that there is a lot of “enthusiasm” in the town for the project. “That area of town is where our industrial park is. So, it’s not intrusive. For something like this, that’s really the ideal location.”

In Depew, the indoor firing range to be operated by Wolcott Gun at 3052 Walden Ave. is under construction. After an early rejection by the Town of Lancaster, the range found a home in Depew, where it plans to offer long gun, handgun and archery shooting, along with hunter safety courses.

Tony Fischione, Depew’s code enforcement officer, said that the project had passed through the planning and village boards and received building permits, and that he was on location Monday for an inspection of the progress of construction. The owner, Ken Wolcott, told Fischione he expects the new range to open in June.

Neither Wolcott, officials from Ransier nor the architect, the Krog Corp., responded to calls for comment Monday.

If and when both ranges in Depew and West Seneca are operational, they will join the Niagara Gun Range, 3355 Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda, as the only public indoor ranges in Niagara and Erie counties.

The growth is a positive thing, according to folks such as Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, local gun rights advocate and training counselor Harold W. “Budd” Schroeder and even Dennis Deasy, the owner of the Niagara Gun Range, who will face increased competition from the new businesses.

“In the current condition things are in, right now, if I was going to do this all over again, I wouldn’t do it in this state. I would go to a place where there’s a much more business-friendly environment,” said Deasy, who was irritated by the state’s recent passage of the SAFE Act, which implemented the nation’s most restrictive gun laws.

On the other hand, said Deasy, who has operated the North Tonawanda range for 18 years, gun business is picking up. He views his line of work – providing access to a public range – as a public service.

“Most people come here because they have a firearm and they have nowhere to shoot,” Deasy said.

Indoor ranges have obvious advantages over their outdoor counterparts – they are climate-controlled, aren’t dependent on the weather and are able to stay open year-round. Another big plus is that the enclosed environment provides greater observation and safety controls.

“I’m in favor of them,” Howard said of more indoor public gun ranges. “There are not a lot of them. ... For gun owners, it provides an opportunity to practice their skill.”

Added Schroeder: “Winter really puts the damper [on outdoor ranges]. ... Shooting is becoming more popular. Look at the increased gun sales.”

Indoor ranges aren’t a panacea, however. They may contain any released lead, so it’s not dropped into the environment, but – unlike open outdoor ranges – there’s a substantial risk for airborne exposure to lead. The range distance is often limited, and indoor ranges are expensive to operate and maintain, in terms of repairing, cleaning and insuring.

“It took me 14 years before I was really making money,” said Deasy, adding that his efforts to run a safe range with a long history of customer service would ensure his range’s viability. “This is something you do for a passion. You’re not going to make quick money.”

Deasy also said the state’s restrictive laws and the publicity surrounding those laws have brought more customers to his store and his range.

“What drives in sales here is the politicians,” he said.

West Seneca’s Planning Board will take up the proposal on the North America Drive range at its 7 p.m. Thursday meeting in West Seneca Town Hall, 1250 Union Road.

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