LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The owner of the Shooters Sporting Center under construction on Route 539 says the national gun-control debate mounting since recent mass shootings isn’t hurting prospects for the indoor shooting and archery range.

In fact, Thomas Gormley said Sunday afternoon while working at his Tip’s Hardware store in Eagleswood Township that he’s seeing more interest in buying weapons than ever. The hardware store sells hunting gear.

“We’re the busiest we’ve ever been. I’m online looking for stuff now that I need. We call the manufacturers and they just don’t have it in stock,” Gormley said. “People used to come in for one box of ammo, and now they’re buying five.”

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He said he thinks the increase in interest is in part people wanting to protect themselves and make sure they are armed because they fear losing that right, he said.

Little Egg Harbor Township Assistant Administrator Michael Fromosky also noted interest in a shooting range.

“Because of the school shootings and other shootings across the country, there might be quite a few people buying pistols and getting permits that need to be properly trained and qualified,” Fromosky said.

Fromosky, a retired New Jersey State Police sergeant, said the new shooting center will have a lot of potential appeal for hunters and law enforcement professionals. There really is no place for pistol enthusiasts to go to shoot locally now, he said.

“There are people in the area now who do a lot of traveling to go to ranges to shoot further north in Lakewood, and there are a lot of retired police officers in this area who are traveling substantial distances just to maintain their qualifications twice a year,” he said.

The Little Egg Harbor Township Planning Board last year approved plans by Gormley and partner/general contractor George Kurtz to build the 25,000-square-foot Shooters Sporting Center on 23 acres on Route 539 next to the Garden State Parkway entrance at Exit 58. The owners broke ground in fall and expect construction to be completed in June, Gormley said.

By the middle of next month, a group of trainers certified with the National Rifle Association will start classes with members of Shooters Sporting Center, Gormley said.

Township Administrator Garrett Loesch welcomed the news of a spring opening for Shooters Sporting Center. He and other township officials expect generally to lose ratables in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

“I haven’t seen any kind of business forecast, but they’re building, and I am looking for a ratable next year. I want them to be successful and pay their taxes on time,” Loesch said.

The sporting center will include a 10,000-square-foot store, a 15-lane indoor firearm range and a 10-lane indoor archery range. Gormley said it will cost about $4 million to build.

For the past three decades or so, there has been a public, outdoor shooting range in Little Egg Harbor on Route 539, without incident, Gormley said.

When it comes down to it, it’s about people making bad choices, Gormley said about tragic events.

“New Jersey already has the second toughest gun laws in the U.S. There are so many things that are already in place, (such as) background and mental health checks,” he said.

“What are we going to do with drunk drivers? Are you going to pull the liquor licenses from the bars?” Gormley asked.

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