Joe Neveril’s fervent desire is to bring the Chicago area its first “guntry club,” which he describes as kind of a country club for gun enthusiasts.
Get it? Guntry club.
“It’s an upscale shooting range that is a destination. It’s not your everyday gun range,” Neveril told village officials earlier this year in southwest suburban Willowbrook, which is where the Downers Grove lawyer hopes to open his Chicago Gun Club.
Part of what differentiates Neveril’s guntry club from your everyday gun range is that it would serve liquor to club members who want to chill after finishing their target practice.
The Chicago Gun Club also plans to sell customized 4×4 vehicles and survival gear, in addition to a full range of guns, in an effort to appeal to the survivalist crowd.
Maybe the nicest thing I could say about this idea is that building it in Willowbrook might reduce the demand for a gun-range-as-entertainment center in the city, which is under pressure from the federal courts to quit blocking commercial gun ranges from locating here.
But that wouldn’t be fair to the Willowbrook residents who turned out Monday night to register their opposition during a village board meeting, most of them expressing alarm at the proposed combination of gun use and alcohol sales in the same business.
As Chicago moves from what amounts to an outright ban on commercial gun ranges to fighting over particular locations, maybe it’s instructive to pay attention to what’s happening in the suburbs.
Neveril says guntry clubs like the one he proposes are already popular in other parts of the country.
He promises the Willowbrook facility will be “much, much nicer” than other new upscale gun ranges in Hodgkins and Bolingbrook, which presumably also applies to a proposed woman-friendly gun range seeking to locate in an Elgin strip mall that also has invoked the guntry club comparison.
Neveril is patterning his club after one in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, where the amenities include a VIP lounge with craft beer on tap, machine gun rentals and a concierge who brings members more ammo.
Neveril is also pushing to serve liquor in a VIP lounge, but he recently dropped plans for the machine gun rentals after village officials let him know that wasn’t going to fly.
Until this week, it looked as if Neveril and partners were well on their way to winning approval.
But a buzzsaw of community opposition at Monday night’s village board meeting has at least slowed the momentum for the 31,000-square-foot stand-alone facility with a 32-stall gun range. A vote was delayed until May 22.
The Chicago Gun Club would be open to anyone walking in off the street with a valid FOID card (or with a friend with an FOID card.) But it also would offer memberships ranging from a $149 family membership to a VIP level that would cost a $5,000 initiation fee and $250 in monthly dues.
Only those with VIP memberships would be allowed access to the second floor lounge serving alcohol. Neveril said the club would have systems in place to prevent anyone from using the range after drinking. Members also would be prohibited from bringing their guns into the lounge.
The VIP membership was originally supposed to cover the cost of machine gun rentals, too, so they might need to rethink the price.
I appreciate that lawful gun owners aren’t the cause of violence in our cities. I understand that shooting is a sport enjoyed by many people and that a lot of them go to gun ranges just for fun.
That doesn’t mean I’d want a gun range opening in my neighborhood.
The owners of the Chicago Gun Club told village officials they picked the name to give it national recognition, dismissing concerns about the current association with “Chicago” and “gun violence” as being only temporary.
If only I shared their optimism.