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February 13, 2013

String of suicides prompt review of gun range safety protocol

Target Sports site of three attempted suicides in five-month span

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK — A string of three suicide attempts in a five-month span at a local gun range has caught the attention of city officials and residents alike.

Target Sports, 30482 Woodward Ave., has fallen under scrutiny in the past month as people have used the store’s gun range as a site to try and end their lives. Since 2001, seven people have tried to do so, and five did end their lives.

Most recently, on Jan. 17, a man shot himself in the face and fled the building on foot before being located by police a few blocks away with non-life threatening injuries. Prior to that, a woman shot herself at the range on Dec. 21, 2012, and was transported to Beaumont Hospital, where she died. On Sept. 21, another man had turned two firearms on himself after asking to test them.

On-site gun rental, which costs $20-$25, previously had age restrictions of 21 for handguns and 18 for long guns, but there is an added provision since the Jan. 17 incident. Target Sports — which has no affiliation to the Target Corp. retailers — will no longer allow individuals to rent guns while visiting alone. “Regulars” who bring their own weapons to test and groups of two or more people will still be allowed to use the gun ranges.

“The policy that Target Sports has adopted is they will not rent a gun out to an individual if they do not have a gun themselves,” Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue told the City Commission Feb. 4. “I believe that will help tremendously. I know that (the owner) is very open to any suggestions we might have.”

Target Sports owner Ray Jihad did not return several calls seeking comment last week.

The City Commission’s conversation about the gun range branched off into suicide awareness at several points, but many commissioners were interested in learning why similar problems have never occurred at other regional gun ranges, such as Action Impact in Southfield.

“The city does have a limited amount of authority to adopt an ordinance to try to influence the process this business operates,” City Attorney David Gillam said.

The commission voted unanimously to work with Target Sports to prevent further instances while also looking into what ordinances the City of Southfield may have on the books that have assisted Action Impact over the years. Others were also interested in learning more about certified range instructors.

“They have invited us in,” Mayor Jim Ellison said of Target Sports. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If there are ordinances out there, we don’t need to step all over someone’s Second Amendment rights.”

For more on the discussion, visit www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us. For more on the gun range, visit www.facebook. com/targetshootingsports.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.