We ran a report a few days ago about the closure of the Smith & Wesson Shooting Sports Center in Springfield, Mass. Shut down for inventory? Pshaw! Reaching out to Smith’s PR crew hasn’t gotten us any answers. But now we hear that the company closed the facility due to the frequency of gang members (not pictured above) using the public range to get in a little trigger time. The legal kind. The speculation is that, to counter this, the range will no longer be open to the public. Rather, Smith will do what SIG does in Epping, making the range available only to those attending one of their classes . . .

Avoiding gang members with guns is pretty much a surefire personal defense tip for staying away from potentially bad situations. But all things being equal, wouldn’t gangbangers who are accurate be better than those who don’t know what the hell they’re doing with a gun?

Could a little practice mean fewer innocent bystanders killed and injured? As in less collateral damage? Sure, Smith’s facility being known as a place frequented by undesirables would not be good for the brand. Some ranges run background checks on shooters before renting them a gun. But should gang members be allowed to shoot at a public range just like anyone else?

83 Responses to Question of the Day: Should Gang Members Be Allowed to Practice?

  1. Ok I will kick the hornets nest. I say yes they should be, but for different reasons, mainly if you turn them away you will have to turn everyone away. If something is open to the public then even gang bangers are the public and as undesireable as they are they cannot be discriminated against. Honestly though its a very slippery slope either way you go though.

    • well at least 2 there know about trigger control….they can go ….the other when he learns the basic 4 rules…

        • And the anti-trigger discipline rapid response force is there to reply instantly.

          I could be wrong, but it looks like that could be an actual, real-life photo, so a little trigger discipline wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

        • Hi. This is the gang-banger in the picture with the shotty. Thanks for your observation about my errantly placed trigger finger. I will clean up my safety act from now on. No worries.

  2. Yes they should.Considering they’re the only armed population allowed in Chicago and other anti CCW locales,they still have the responsibility to handle their ‘gats’ expertly.

    Sarcasm aside,this ain’t the government’s business.If a private range closes due to gang members -or other safety hazards-at the lanes,its their right as business owners.Uncle Sam needs to stay out of the matter.If a bill banning gang members from shooting passed,the antis would be burning the midnight oil classifying every club and hobby group as a “gang”.

    “Sir,are you a Member of IDPA?I’m sorry,can’t let ya shoot,California considers IDPA a ‘gang organization’.”

  3. Why do we keep rehashing the same issues? A private business can prohibit access to their private property to whomever they want for whatever reason they want.

    This question is actually completely arbitrary and revolves solely around one’s definition of “undesireables.” The question should be, as lover’s of liberty, do we have the authority to force interactions between people when our particular definition of “undesireables” are not aligned?

  4. First of all, gang bangers and violent felons shouldn’t have legal access to guns. If a person has proven that they are willing to violate the rights of another with malice a forethought, then they forfeit their second amendment rights.

    If I owned a range, I would kick them off. That makes me intolerant, but I can live with that. I’d rather honestly support responsible gun ownership, hard work, and personal responsibility than hide beside a wussified facade of tolerance.

    Mark my words, gang members do not support the law, our economy, or responsible gun ownership.

  5. I always wondered about the guys at my range trying to shoot skeet using shotguns with short barrels or pistol grips.

    But that also is responsible for the funniest thing I had ever seen shooting.
    This big old boy (thing Hugo from Lost) had to weigh 400lbs had this sawed off pump.
    sawed of stock and barrel was trying to shoot skeet. But he was shooting from the hip and since he was so big the shotgun was offset about 2 feet. Plus it looked like he only brought the 2 skinny black guys with him just in case he got hungry.

  6. Seems like there are much simpler ways to have at least a semi public range and avoid those that are not law abiding. Why not do only those that have taken an NRA safety course, or require some type of membership with a background check (and don’t require the check if they have a concealed carry permit/license)

  7. How do we know they are gang members? Is there a permit for that? I wear fairly urban streetwear to the range all the time and I don’t belong to any gangs THAT I KNOW OF (although I am a bit more “hipster” and a bit less “esse”)

    Being afraid of a brown man in flannel is SO OFWG. =) Sad that S&W is so afraid of their neighbors but hey, it’s their range.

  8. I do wonder how they identify someone as an actual gang member/felon. Or do they just assume that anyone whose pants hang low and otherwise merely embraces a certain peculiar style of fashion is a criminal?

  9. I think it’s bad policy to allow gang bangers to hang around your place of business. Aside from giving a criminal the opportuntiy to improve his skills that he can use against both the general population and LEOs, you will eventually end up with an incident. All it would take to get an armed confrontation is for two rivals gangs to occupy the same place at the same time. A private business doesn’t that kind of headache.

    • “All it would take to get an armed confrontation is for two rivals gangs to occupy the same place at the same time. A private business doesn’t that kind of headache.”

      How is a firing range any different than a mall or restaurant in this situation? Gang members aren’t known for getting CCW permits or following carry laws, what’s to stop them from carrying somewhere other than a firing range? Since no business I can think of would want the headache of an armed confrontation by two rival gangs in their place of business, should all businesses be allowed to toss gang members out of their business just b/c they are in a gang and the owner wants to prevent a potential firefight?

  10. If I knew they were gang members, they’re gone. Law-abiding citizens, yes. Gang members who care nothing about your safety and will likely try to mark your range as their ‘territory” do nothing to promote responsible gun ownership. What happens if a rival gang shows up for target practice and finds another gang there already? Can you just imagine how the media would paint that? A gang shooting at the range will cause your customers to go elsewhere to practice, leaving the range to be frequented by whatever gang can hold their “turf”.

  11. My local range has a ‘dress code’ printed right outside. no baggy clothing, no muscle shirts, no head gear EXCEPT baseball caps WITH THE BILL turned forward.

    • Which is funny because if you’re shooting a scoped rifle you pretty much need to turn your hat backwards. IMO, working in a tight space or shooting a rifle (or wearing a catcher’s mask, nach) are the only times it’s acceptable to wear a bball cap backwards.

  12. Why not just tighten up the rules a bit? Create a dress code and enforce it. Anyone not showing proper trigger or muzzle discipline? Make ’em leave. Poor body positioning (ie stepping forward of the firing line to collect shells or a dropped mag) – Make ’em leave.
    The types of people you want to exclude are probably the sort that will break those rules, and by tightening up they won’t come around.
    Although I’m not in favor of the fact that my home state of NY requires a permit to own a handgun, it makes excluding the ‘bangers much easier, because most every range in the state will not allow handgun shooting without showing the permit first. (The permit involves a LOT of thorough background checking)

  13. Wouldn’t something as simple as forcing them to show evidence of either being legally eligible to buy a gun and/or evidence of a recent legal gun purchase be an easy way to thin out much of this element without punishing the entire general public? They could accept a valid CCW, receipt of purchase from within the last 6 months from a registered FFL [who would of run a NICs check], or whatever. I was under the impression MA had something similar to the NJ FID cards*?

    *In NJ, we all need to have a Firearms ID card in order to purchase long guns [& pistols, but we also need permits for those] They’re a pain in the butt to get, and numerous aspects of the process are pretty infuriating from a 2A standpoint, but if there is one silver lining it would be that requiring someone to show a valid FID to use a range would significantly lower your changes of letting a true “gang member” use the range without inconveniencing legal gun owners who would generally already have them by default. Perfect? No, but worlds better than just closing the range and [once again] punishing the law abiding for the acts of criminals.

    • There is no system which can be established to block access to gang members which won’t by definition apply to everyone else.

      A FID/FOID system won’t stop someone from bringing a guest to the range.A woman with a legal FOID/FID is legally allowed to bring her MS13 vato boyfriend to the range, so long as he doesn’t have a disqualifying record. The same applies to relatives with legal firearm credentials. One of the reasons the Brady system is such a failure is because crooks who do want to buy a gun from a legal vendor merely straw purchase it from a legal “mule”.

      In addition, gangs are multifaceted entities. Their membership is composed of more types of people than just the pants-hanging street homies.The gang middle management and higher ups wear ordinary street clothes, drive ordinary cars, and would look like an ordinary productive citizen. It sucks to say this, but ill bet every business in a downtown area has served a gang member or two-including some FFLs.

      This is a problem best left to the individual FFL or range to resolve.No legislation can be made to “fix” this without causing more problems for greater acceptance of the 2nd Amendment. If “gang membership” becomes a disqualifying offense on its own , without a felony attached to it we WILL see the day being a member of anything becomes a disqualifying offense.

      Member of SCCA ? Because you drive fast cars, the DHS says its a gang. DQ’ed.
      Member of IDPA ? Feds at the ATF say its a gang. DQ
      Member of Veterans Organizations? Because of PTSD concerns, its considered a “gang” and firearm possession is illegal. I don’t have any love for the scumbags in the Vice Lords and their ilk:but that which the Feds use against them will be used against us.

  14. BTW, every now and then I read one of those “savvy cop interviews the criminal set to learn their methods” stories, and it usually comes out that they practice in apartment building basements, abandoned structures, etc.
    Their typical style is fast-draw from concealment, flash sight picture or point shooting. They’re going typically looking to get off the shot quickly, rather than accurately.
    In the mediocre bank-heist drama “Set it Off” the bank robbers buy some “illegal guns” and practice in an underground lair, presumably out of earshot of anyone who’d call to complain.
    The type of practice they’re doing wouldn’t be tolerated on a regular range anyway..

  15. Should gang members be allowed to own guns? Who determines who is a gang member? What about members of a local militia consisting of patriots or a religious-ethnic group armed security organization?

    BTW, doesn’t the White House already have a free public range facility for all gang members providing unlimited free ammo if they can prove they are not US citizens?

  16. I’m sorry, if I saw a group coming in that looked like the ones pictured my butt is coming back at another time. “If the snake looks poisonous, safer to leave the area than spend time figuring out.”

    Personally, I would rather a range be strict on rules like a background check to at least make sure their are not warrants for a persons arrest. This way I can spend more time improving my skill and less checking my back.

  17. I can just see it now, gang members throwing signs across the range lol
    Honestly if you have some sort of dress code it will probably minimize the whole thing right there.
    Beyond that if it is a private range they can run it how they wish, if you want to allow criminals of any kind in your range fine. It is your business.
    We have plenty of gang issues here in CA, just like other places, but I don’t really see them out at the local ranges much. They are to busy shooting at each other!

  18. Smith cutting every possible manufacturing corner isn’t that great for the brand, either, but it doesn’t seem to have stopped them.

  19. So what you’re saying is based on appearence or culture some people shouldn’t be allowed to go to a shooting range?

  20. Innocent until proven guilty…

    …unless you want to use a firing range.

    I see plenty of people around town that may look like gang members but probably aren’t. I don’t want to have to take a background check or file the serial numbers on my guns to use a range, so I wouldn’t expect somebody who ‘looks like a gang member’ to have to do that as well.

  21. love the guy on the right all proud of hi Hi-point. I guess if your a convicted felon that’s the best gun you can get.

  22. And more accurate gang members would also mean higher losses among gangs, leading to fewer gang members.

  23. See it all the time here in Cali. Side shooting, ‘Yeah head shot dawg” only to realize it was by chance they got they head shot… *notice all the holes around the shoulders and head).

    “Got my Glawk Foo! Gon chpp this foo!”

    “Yo dawgm yo dawg.. yeah… I dare a motha f*cker dawg, precision!” *Eye roll* Sure buddy… whatever…

    I’ve seen it all, heard it all, and have asked to be moved further down the line as to avoid being shot by one of these ass holes and their barrel looking, tummy tucking, bs.

    • That’s a problem solved with range rules…which many here hate. I know plenty of morons that act like that and have never even seen a real gangbanger. Blame Hollywood instead of letting the bad kind of gun control creep into your range.

  24. The gang pictured is affiliated with los Surenos Mexican mafia. This group of gangs is associated with the color blue, and the bandanas are the most overt symbols in the photo. One would also expect clothing and/or tats with the number 13 or trece (or numbers on a hat or a jersey that together add up to 13). The thirteen refers to the letter M, or “la eme,” the 13th letter of the alphabet.

    The other big latino gang grouping is the Nortenos or Nuestra Familia. They’re associated with the letter N and the number 14 (or numbers on a hat or a jersey that together add up to 14). Their color is red.

    I would guess that it was law enforcement using the range that recognized the gangs. Usually the symbols aren’t overt enough to be noticed or deciphered by mere citizens.

    It is not uncommon for gangs to have a “green light” on a rival gang or certain individuals. This means that if a gang member sees someone that has a green light, they are expected to attack them and kill them if they can. Members gain respect and status in the gang through such violence. One could reasonably expect violence in any public place where gang members gather, including a gun range.

    Law enforcement around here believes most gangs go out into the woods to practice their handgun skills.

      • My use of “mere citizens” was not intended to imply any class mentality. Everything I know about gangs I learned at the Washington County Sheriff’s citizens academy. There was a 90 minute session on gangs in Washington County.

        Gang identify is more for other gang members, or to intimidate members of their own community, i.e., their neighbors. Before the session on gangs I would have had no chance of identifying gang members mixed in with the general public. I doubt I would have even noticed a bunch of folks wearing a similar color grouped together in public.

        The citizens academy has done a lot to improve my situational awareness.

    • “Mere citizens” probably refers to people lucky enough to grow up in areas where they’re aren’t gangs. For a lot of folks who grow up in blue-collar areas or the city, gangs are a part of life. If you happen to grow up in an area where there are gangs, you learn to avoid them even if you are a “mere citizen” by learning their colors, signs, phrases, and even jewelry as innocent as rosaries.

      Smart gang members don’t flash their colors at a public range, though… or like Phydeaux said, many go out into the wood to practice. A lot of gangs are also getting pushed out into the rural areas as well, from increased law enforcement in the city. It’s a problem even here in WA state, where a lot of gang activity has spread into the less populous areas of the state.

  25. Same thing happened a few years ago where I live (York county, PA). They closed the only public range in the area down because of gang activity. Never did reopen. For a while they had a park service officer there a lot of the time but that was impractical.

  26. In all likelihood, those pictured above the article are not the same people using the range. I’d be curious to know just who these people are, and how it became known, conclusively, that they were gang members.

    Even so, who’s to say gang members shouldn’t be allowed range time? Unless a person cannot legally possess a firearm, why shouldn’t they?

    IMHO, the Police are the biggest criminal gang in the country, and from what I’ve seen around here, half the people would line up for a chance to blow one of them.

    • IMHO, the Police are the biggest criminal gang in the country, and from what I’ve seen around here, half the people would line up for a chance to blow one of them.

      That is one of the best things I’ve read on this site in awhile.

      • It feels good to make a difference.

        They emailed me a while back about turning my Sheep/Sheepdog screed from this page into an editorial post, but it never seems to have materialized.

        Just as well. I would have needed a chance to clean up and better order the text, because I just kind of shat that out haphazardly.

        • I’ll give it a read and let you know what I think. It aggravates me how many people we get though who support the very people who oppress us.

  27. This has endless possibilities to close ranges to the public. Gee.. a lot of guys that look like the White Trash and Redneck Gangs here…Yeah, I guess we will have to close the ranges and make sure private citizens cannot practice to get their gun license qualifications. Of course if the citizens are unqualified, that means we need to confiscate their guns. Ranges are only for Police and Military. High Fives all around!

  28. I guess I’ve gotten used to it. Ben Avery is the public range here in Phoenix and at the busy times there are plenty of folks dressed like those in the pictures. At the times I’ve been there shooting next to them they followed protocol and were never a problem but I’m only there occasionally.

    My feelings are that a public range is just that – open to the public. A private range however should be absolutely free to cater to whatever clientele they choose.

  29. I’ve met plenty of guys at the local public range that look like so called “gangbangers”, and I’ve never seen any of them be rude or cause any problems. As long as they’re allowed to legally own or handle a firearm they should be allowed to shoot because they haven’t broken any laws. I know that a lot of cops shoot at the range and if they see a known felon with a gun, they just need to make a quick call and the problem will be dealt with.

    • Yeah really, it seems unlikely that a felon would go practice at a range. Then again, there are a lot of pretty stupid felons.

  30. They are in a liberal state that continuously tries to pass laws that allow manufacturers to be sued for homicides with weapons they produced. In all likelihood S&W is trying to avoid any form of association with possible gang members that might open them to legal action. I can’t blame them for covering their asses in this litigious society.

  31. Owning guns and this website is all about rights, yet everyone on here seems to not like the idea of others being able to use theirs. They are legal. They have the correct papers in order. Let them shoot. I understand feeling uneasy by them, but they came to the range for the same reasons as you: personal defense and training on your skills. I disagree with S&W and feel their move was not only profiling, but was immature as well.

  32. I find it hard to want to protect the rights of someone who has voluntarily joined a criminal organization and associates with convicted criminals, even if they themselves have not commited any crimes (yet).

    Of course you run into a whole lotta issues there, from the legal ones to the practical ones.

    Oh well, I’m not too worried anyways. Range time doesn’t seem to improve the shooting of the very few gangbanger wannabes (I doubt they were true gangmembers) I’ve seen at the range I go to. They seem to exclusively own Hi-Points and rent Glocks, and are lucky to hit the target if it’s 10 yards away. A shotgun would produce better groups.

    • It’s difficult to want to do it, but undermining the ‘presumption of innocence’ thing and giving the gun-grabbers a way to infringe the 2nd without going to the trouble of convicting someone seems even more unappealing.

  33. I’m not sure exactly what it means to be a gang member. I’m guessing it means being guilty of (at minimum) criminal conspiracy.

    So if we know these people are criminals, why aren’t they in jail?

    If we don’t know they are criminals, why are we even talking about this?

  34. I truly belive the amount of missed shots and spare clerks is much greater than the amount of inocent bystandard getting shot. So yes keep them of the range.

  35. Seems to me we need to open firing ranges specifically for gang members. With two firing lines. And barriers to make sure no bullet leaves the premises.

    “Ready on the right firing line? Ready on the left firing line? Now, wait until I shut the door.”

    • “Seems to me we need to open firing ranges specifically for gang members.”

      You mean like Chicago?

  36. Two things, one i think if Your going to rent a gun and if you don’t possess a CHL, or some other training i.e NRA training, it would be helpful for some sort of testing to see if you know how to handle a gun, gang bangeror not. Wouldnt take but a minute or two to figure it out? At my range they are sometimes 5 deep on one lane. While one shoots the others play ” Dirty Harry” behind them. I always confront them and tell the owners if need be who always take care of it.

    Second, I would venture to say that just the policy of running a background check before renting would suffice. Maybe a dress code? Pants must fit:-)

    Many of our ranges seem more like bowling alleys sometimes and that is dangerous for all of us. I stay away from those, or at least on Saturdays.

    It wont matter if a criminal can shoot well because they dont care a bit about life. Those they intend to murder or those who may be collatiral damage.

  37. Not everyone considered to be “in a gang” is a criminal, I am a patch holder in an M/C and considered by law enforcement to be a “gang Member”. I am not a criminal, I work, and am raising 2 grand sons. I enjoy going to the range, and taking my 5 year old grand son with me. I have less civil rights as a result of my patch, be careful who’s rights you take away, because if they take mine, they can surely take yours.

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