Smith & Wesson’s Shooting Sports Center in Springfield, Mass. has shut down their civilian range indefinitely as it takes time to review their policies after four patrons lied on a liability release indicating they were not felons when they were.
This really sucks, since the Shooting Sports Center is a nice, comfortable and safe place for introducing new shooters to the sport learn about firearms, and do some training. You had the opportunity to rent a variety of Smith & Wesson firearms to “try before you buy,” and you could join IDPA matches held two or three times per month with as many as 50 participants enjoying an evening or morning of shooting with really good people.
Again, this was – and is – a very safe place to shoot. They took the introduction to firearms very seriously, requiring non-members visiting watch a safety video prior to entering the range and be directly supervised by a range safety officer while on the line.
Unfortunately, four crummy felon thugs ruined it for law-abiding citizens.
Court documents show that in May 2011, 22-year-old Manuel Lora went to the range with some friends and fired several shots. Lora is a convicted felon, and two of his friends are also convicts. …
But federal law states that it is illegal to possess a firearm and ammunition by a person convicted of a crime punishable by at least one year in prison.
Federal law didn’t stop Lora and the others from using the range. Court documents show they falsely signed liability waivers and certificates saying they’d never been convicted of crimes punishable by a year in prison. All four lied. Documents state Lora used several pistols rented from the range, and months later, police said he shot and killed 25-year-old Jonathon Tallaj in Springfield with a similar weapon he’d fired at the shooting range. Lora has since been charged with Tallaj’s murder.
Note Lora did not, and could not buy the gun used to murder Tallaj from Smith & Wesson, he obtained the gun illegally since he’s a convicted felon.
Supposedly, Smith & Wesson was not bullied by the anti-gun state of Massachusetts, but I don’t believe that for a minute. Their statement…
We recently made the business decision to temporarily close our Shooting Sports Center while we make changes to better align its purpose with our key business objectives as a firearm manufacturer. This is a decision that we made internally and on our own accord for a number of business-related reasons which include the many complexities of operating a public range, combined with our desire to focus on our manufacturing operation.
Why don’t I believe it? I guess it does not really matter, but let’s say Smith & Wesson caved to anti-gun pressure back during the late years of the Clinton administration and a lot of people have not forgiven them. Smith & Wesson’s leadership has an image problem.
Anyway… What was Smith & Wesson supposed to do? Verify through a background check for every person who came into the range to try shooting or rent a firearm? Certainly doable, but that opens up a bunch of issues and a lot of questions.
If you think background checks are reasonable, what do you do about registered sex offenders who move among us in public? Should malls be required to complete a background check on everyone who comes in to shop? Certainly, sex offenders on a registry can be dangerous right? How about a school football game? School plays and musicals? Even if sex offenders are banned from school grounds, the system – mostly – relies on self-enforcement. Should a mall or school be responsible if sex offenders commit crimes on their property or follows someone from their property and attacks them? At least Smith & Wesson requires all participants answer the “are you a convicted felon” question, make a copy of their IDs and keep the documentation. (Smith & Wesson must have provided law enforcement with the liability releases and questionnaire.)
As a patron, I hope Smith & Wesson leadership would read this post, and I’d like to encourage them to immediately again open the range to the law-abiding public.
Update: I found the following statement online, but can not confirm it actually came from Smith & Wesson.
Due to a number of business and infrastructure factors which include planned upgrades, we are electing to keep the SSC closed on a temporary basis. This closure applies to the general public, current members, law enforcement, IDPA members, VIP’s (without prior approval) and all Smith & Wesson employees. The closure will remain in effect until further notice. We anticipate a mid-summer opening.
During the coming months we will reassess the entire operation to assure alignment with our core business objectives and we plan to open as a private facility with a renewed purpose intent on supporting our commitment to the shooting sports industry. Our plans will encompass continued access to License-To-Carry (LTC) and other training programs as well as FirstShots®, IDPA events, Scout activities, Hunters Education classes and others.