Trustees hear gun shop bid
by STEPHANIE CHOPORIS
The Niles Village Board of Trustees was scheduled to meet Tuesday to reconsider a proposal to open a shop at 6143 W. Howard St. that would sell firearms and feature an indoor firing range and firearm safety training.
The village board deferred action on the proposal at its June 24 meeting, sending it back to the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals for review. The Plan Commission voted 5-2 on July 17 to recommend approval of a special use permit that would allow the shop to open.
If approved by the village board, Sportsman’s Club and Firearms Training Academy would feature an 11,600-square-foot firing range, 2,500 square feet of retail space, a 10,100-square-foot warehouse and 1,300 square feet of storage space in a building previously occupied by Windy City Rods and Restoration.
The facility would also feature 22 shooting lanes, the sale of handguns, rifles, ammunition, clothing, accessories, hunting gear and eyewear, classrooms for safety training, staff offices, a gunsmith and armor workshop for cleaning and repairing guns, a simulator for first-time gun users and a tactical bay for police officers to conduct drills.
Some residents have expressed concern about the proposed proximity to nearby schools and day care centers. Niles West High School is 3,645 feet from the proposed site, and New Hope Academy, a private school for students with emotional challenges, is 950 feet away.
Other communities have gun shops that are close to schools, churches and other businesses. Maxon Shooters in Des Plaines is situated within 1,500 feet of Saint Sophia Church, 2,000 feet of Maine West High School and 3,000 feet of Plainfield Elementary School.
Opponents of the Niles gun shop also have expressed concern about the possibility of hiring Michael Darga as the facility’s general manager. Darga worked at Shore Galleries in Lincolnwood for 20 years, and a study released earlier this year by Chicago police cites Shore Galleries as the source of 483 guns that were recovered from Chicago crime scenes from 2009 to 2013.