October 28, 2020

Heard BOC continues discussion of outdoor shooting range

(Franklin, GA) — The Heard County Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday, September 22 and once again discussed the Advantage Tactical shooting range located at 3541 Franklin Parkway.

All parties previously agreed after a lengthy discussion at the August meeting to cease any live firing at the range while safety concerns are being addressed and an impartial expert is hired to inspect the facility.

Chairman Lee Boone began the discussion under old business on the agenda with an update on that inspection of the range.

Boone stated that he had spoken with the Director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, GA about having either him or one of his range staff members to come and inspect the Advantage Tactical site.

The director of the training center is waiting for approval from the state’s legal department before proceeding with the inspection.

Boone stated that some recent reports of shooting at the range last weekend turned out to be some spontaneous recreational shooting on the adjacent property to the north, currently a Motocross facility.

Additionally, Boone suggested and later read to the board some potential text amendments to general shooting range ordinances moving forward that would need to be sent to the planning commission.

The first speaker on the topic was attorney Virgil L. Brown from Zebulon, GA who was present in representation of Advantage Tactical.

Brown said that he had obtained an expert’s testimony that the shots fired into the home of property owned by Talmadge Phillips earlier this year could not have come from the Advantage Tactical Range, but he would like for the actual rounds to be taken out of Phillips home. He stated that Sheriff Ross Henry and the HCSO was going to handle the removal process.

Commissioners at Tuesday's meeting (L-R): Chairman Lee Boone, Commissioners Larry Hooks, Keri Denney, Gwen Caldwell, Larry Hammond, and Joe Adams

Commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting (L-R): Chairman Lee Boone, Commissioners Larry Hooks, Keri Denney, Gwen Caldwell, Larry Hammond, and Joe Adams

Brown also reiterated that his clients want to do what is necessary to make the range safe.

” I have talked to my clients and they want it to be safe and they want it to be accepted by everybody and they want to implement whatever it takes to ensure safety, ” said Brown. “I have inspected the range myself and made some suggestions for some changes.”

Brown suggested some changes including the direction of the shooting the size of the berms, the presence of a safety officer at all times, and the keeping of detailed logs on the type and amount of shooting going on each day at the range.

Brown also added that the owners of the range have already started making some improvements in advance of the county’s inspection.

“When the range first went in we really didn’t have a lot of complaints — and just looking back — when the complaints really started was consistent with when this company from Newnan called ‘The AR Bunker’ sublet the range down there,” said Chairman Boone.

“That is when the calls starting coming in about it sounding like a ‘war zone.’ I was unaware they had sublet the range I think it is more than just a coincidence that the complaints really started coming in and the safety concerns went off the charts based on the activities that they were conducting over there,” Boone added.

Boone expressed that in addition to safety issues his number one concern was the liability insurance of the property especially as it relates to subletting the property to another business such as The AR Bunker.

“Any concern you have got about insurance we will work with you on that,”Brown stated.

“I emailed Mr. Jim Peterson your client and asked him for copies of his insurance for the last couple of years and I didn’t hear anything,” said Boone. “We eventually talked and I told him I need copies of those policies and the name of his insurance agent but I have not received that yet.”

Boone explained to Brown that when the board had approved the range in 2013, plans seemed to be for a very basic pistol and rifle range and that he did not feel the range was set up for the use of tactical training, exploding targets, and Tannerite that have been going on there this year.

Brown suggested that he feels many of the problems can be remedied in the future with changes to the range and changes in the operation of it. He stated again that his clients are willing to make necessary changes.

Commissioners Hammond and Denney questioned Brown about the insurance documents that have been requested and not received.

Sgt. Dan Boswell with the Heard County Sheriff’s Office stated to the board that he would be going to Phillips’ house to extract the bullets within the coming days.

The next speaker to address the board was Assistant Heard County School Superintendent and former middle school principal Mike Roberts.

“When this range first opened we weren’t very concerned — we thought the shooting range had clearly defined lanes with berms at the end that they would have a range master like the ordinance said and that the shots being fired would be fired away from the school campus,” said Roberts. “But after hearing the testimony at the last meeting, and seeing the videos from AR Bunker, we feel like a trust has been broken and we are concerned about our students safety at the school. Our school is only about 500 yards from the range.”

Brown then asked to call forth another gentleman in the county that also had bullet holes in his roof. Chairman Boone stated the man’s testimony would not be relevant because he lived about five miles from the range.

Brown said he was only wanting to prove that other shooting was going on in the county and Boone agreed that he would concede that without hearing from the man.

The Board unanimously voted to send the additional general shooting range text amendments suggested by Boone to the planning commission.

Boone then read some specific recommendations for special conditions for the Advantage Tactical Company to be allowed to operate moving forward that would also need to go before the planning commission.

These recommendations and suggestions included special hours on school days, restrictions on the use of tactical and automatic weapons, the prohibiting of exploding targets and berm specifics.

Brown asked that his clients be given notice on any changes that may be proposed and County Attorney Jerry Ann Connor confirmed that would indeed be the procedure and they would have a chance to be heard by the planning commission.

Another commissioner continued to question Brown about the insurance policy.

“I just want to know why we have never received the insurance policies we asked them for two years ago. What is the problem?,” said Commissioner Gwen Caldwell.

“The reason you don’t have it is he didn’t give it to you two years ago and you didn’t make him,” Brown responded.

During the meeting, Advantage Tactical operations manager Jim Peterson emailed County Clerk Patty Jiles some insurance info.

After reviewing that information, Boone stated the policy seemed to be unacceptable because it was a policy for The AR Bunker for a retail store in Newnan and made no mention of the shooting range in Franklin.

Peterson stated that he would provide further insurance details to the board within 48 hours.

Brown stated that Advantage Tactical would like to hold an event on October 12, but Boone stated nothing would be considered until the range is inspected and the insurance documents are properly submitted.

Boone then asked Deputy Dalton Pate to come to the podium to explain what he witnessed at Mr. Phillips house on the afternoon of August 16, 2015. On that date, Deputy Pate reported he heard shots fired towards the residence and subsequently found shooters on the range firing in the direction of Phillips’ house.

Talmadge Phillips also spoke to the board again voicing his concerns about the safety of the range and the bullet holes in his home.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Commissioners is scheduled for October 27.


















Mike Roberts 1:07








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