On a recent visit to a shooting range here in Washington State, I was very disappointed in a group of gun owners and how their actions reflected on all of us who conduct ourselves professionally and safely when around other citizens, whether at a shooting range or at any other public meeting area where guns are on display or being used.
Upon my arrival, I met the range manager and checked in at the front office. Dave was quick and thorough, getting me signed in and briefed on safety requirements and mandatory equipment, like safety glasses and hearing protection, required to use the facilities.
The Range Safety Officer (RSO) was just heading out to the firing line and was carrying a broom to make sure all stations had a clean area for arriving customers. “This is an outdoor shooting range with a covered firing line and bench mount area, and if it’s a windy day, well, you get the point”.
Shooting Range Tips and Etiquette
I shoot at this range because it maintains a high standard of organization. It is safe and clean, from the front office to the firing line, from the time you enter the facility until the time you leave.
While setting up at my shooting station next to three other occupied lanes, a large truck entered the parking area right behind the firing lanes with its windows down, music blaring, and honking its horn as it came to a stop. My relaxing day of getting in some shooting practice with a new handgun had just come to an end.
Immediately, the whole atmosphere changed. The two individuals who arrived in the truck pulled their beat-up rifle cases from the back of the pickup and went to approach the firing line without checking in first. This caused the RSO to stop all firing. The new arrivals had only eye protection but no hearing protection. When told to bench their weapons and check in at the office, both individuals pushed back at the RSO with comments like “no sh*t” and “We got it, dude”.
While the new “interrupts” arrivals were in the management office, one of the other shooters packed up his gear and departed. I was feeling the same way but wanted to see how the management handled the situation. They had now lost business because of these two individuals, and based on their initial actions, they could have safety issues with them as the day moved forward. Approximately 5 minutes later, the “interrupts” twins came out of the management office, picked up their rifle cases, and departed.
The RSO, being very professional, reset the firing line and commenced to get all shooters back on track with putting lead down range. My intentions for the day having been interrupted, I decided to check in with Dave at the management office and see if he would fill me in on what transpired.
Here’s Dave’s story: The two individuals entered the office and told Dave they needed hearing protection so they could get to shooting. Dave stated they needed double hearing protection because they were shooting rifles and the shooting range currently had no hard-ear secondary protection. All 12 sets had been loaned out to the Boy Scout troop at the other end of the range for their use while target practicing.
Dave offered them the soft foamies, as most shooting ranges do, but stated they would need to buy some hard hearing protection to meet the double hearing protection requirement in order to shoot that day. Both individuals refused to buy any equipment and left the office after making some very disrespectful comments.
After hearing Dave’s side of what transpired, I couldn’t help but remember the lessons I learned over 30 years ago when I first joined the military and how they are just as important now as they were then. Personal responsibility is just that: each individual is responsible for his or her actions. How you conduct yourself day-to-day influences those around you. Follow the rule of the 7 Ps: Proper Prior Planning, It prevents piss-poor performance.
The two individuals in this story failed to plan on many levels. Consequently, they ruined a day of shooting for several individuals and caused unnecessary anxiety for the shooting management. They were a perfect example of how people with guns can act if they fail to take into account how important their actions are when in a public environment.
Gun enthusiasts, shooting sports, gun manufacturing, and licensed hunting are all under attack from many sides. Everyone needs to be aware that anti-gun opponents are looking for situations like this so they can photograph or record it and use it negatively in a public forum. More importantly, we, the gun or shooting public, need to conduct ourselves ethically and safely at all times.
While my day was not what I planned, I still found it worthwhile to observe a shoot management team stick to their principles and adhere to the rules. I’m just glad no young shooter or Boy Scout member observed what I hope to be a rare occurrence.
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Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 20, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.