Overwhelming public attendance, outrage postpones meeting on proposed Frederick gun range

FREDERICK, Md. (WJLA) – Outrage by hundreds of people delayed a major meeting on a proposed Frederick gun range on Thursday night.

When the Frederick County Board of Appeals called the July 24 meeting, it was clear it never expected such an overwhelming response from the public. So many people showed up to talk that the meeting was postponed. Those opposed to the gun range insist their show of force sent a clear message.

Longtime activist Doug Kaplan, of the Sugarloaf Alliance, says this is a first for public hearings in Frederick.

“This is probably the largest crowd that this county has ever seen on any issue,” he said.

So many citizens showed up to testify against the building of a gun range near Sugarloaf Mountain, that the line to get in snaked around the government building.

“It’s Frederick; it’s a close-knit community and everybody sticks together,” said Elizabeth Sebastian of the Sugarloaf Alliance. “There’s plenty of places you can put a firing range. Next to Sugarloaf Mountain is stupid.”

Opponents say guns are OK, but putting a firing range close to pristine property is not.

“What is very scary—beyond the noise—is what is called stray bullets,” Kaplan said.

But supporters insist the range will not taint the area’s aesthetics.

“They will be taking all measures to ensure that there is no noise, and that there is the utmost level of safety,” said Peter Fitzsimmons of the Old Line Arsenal.

Then came word of an unusual ruling; a representative of the gun range got approval from the board to postpone the meeting, on the grounds the crowd was so large that everyone would not have time to testify.

“They wanted to do the right thing and not rush forward without giving everyone an opportunity to communicate with them,” Fitzsimmons said.

Trixi Summers, of the Sugarloaf Alliance, said, “I think they went in and they went, ‘Uh oh.’ This is a lot bigger than they thought.”

But critics insist that on Thursday night, the firing range was outgunned.

“I think, very frankly, they were just plain overwhelmed with the turnout and didn’t know how to handle it,” Kaplan said to the crowd. “So, I want to thank everyone for showing up. It has made a difference.”

The next hearing, which will likely be held in a larger facility, is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 28.

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