“A 21-year-old man died on Saturday after shooting himself at a Randolph gun range,” nj.com reports. While suicides at gun ranges are  hardly a regular occurrence – my old home range had a ServPro moment – they do happen. Some ranges have created policies to reduce the possibility. Specifically, if you don’t bring your own gun and you want to rent a firearm, you have to bring a friend. No single walk-in gun rentals. The problem with that . . .

What if you’re a new shooter who doesn’t own a gun who wants to check out his or her ballistic options and doesn’t know anyone they can bring to the range (e.g., a newbie with anti friends)? You’re SOL. Obviously, some ranges weighed the benefits of suicide prevention – which closes down a range for days and taints the range’s rep – against the loss of potential business, and opted for the no-single-person-rentals. Right choice? If not that, what? [h/t JE]

88 Responses to Question of the Day: How Do You Prevent Suicides at Gun Ranges? [VIDEO]

  1. I don’t really think there’s anything one can do to prevent range suicide other than just have no gun on the range. Sadly It’s a risk a business owner needs to prepare for and figure into the business.

    • Well, according to the video, requiring the same background checks for renting a gun as buying a gun would “maybe” solve the “admittedly rare” but “problematic” gun rental suicide problem.

      Don’t these folks have something better to do?

      • A NICS check is exceedingly unlikely to find a record of someone who has decided to commit suicide. By the time you are involuntarily committed you are well on the road to getting treatment. If you are getting treated you are much less likely to commit suicide. Could happen; but, are there better things to do with the effort to run a NICS check on millions of gun-rental transactions? E.g., like screening for depression?

  2. In the case described above, a single, first-time shooter on the range renting a gun would need to acquire the services of a range-designated instructor to reach a comfort zone with that new shooter.

    • How do you know who’s a first timer? One doesn’t become instantly smooth and fluidly proficient as quickly as the second time, after all. So how could you tell?

      You can’t. It’s unenforceable and you’re imposing a whole new obligation on shop owners.

      • How about you just talk to the guy? Ask him what kind of gun he wants to rent. If he seems indifferent that’s a bad sign. If he says a revolver or a semi that suggests he knows something about guns. What calibre? If he doesn’t know he’s a newbie. If he says a 45 then you ask whether he wants Colt 45 or 45 ACP. If he picks the wrong ammo for the gun type that’s a really bad sign.

        If the guy really won’t engage in a conversation with you then something is really off. Let’s see, this new customer walks into a gun range – this is not an ice cream parlor – a GUN RANGE! He expects you to wait on him as if he were buying a double-dip cone. Seems to have something of an attitude. The proprietor and his employees ought to be really keyed into whether they want to do business with this gun. They are contemplating handing him a gun when he doesn’t seem to be a good o’l boy.

        What ever revenue might be lost from declining his patronage is nothing compared to the revenue lost if this weirdo shoots another regular patron.

        I agree that an experienced gunny would likely talk himself through the initial interview at a gun range if his affect is not just too-far out-of-wack. A newbie couldn’t pass even a casual screening. Whereupon, at a minimum, the range ought to see to it that this new customer get TLC from an RSO if – for no other reason – that he doesn’t create a danger for other customers.

        Range operators can’t stop all such suicides; but they could implement procedures that result in the newbie finding some other means to achieve his goal.

        • Great. So now 50 million shooting enthusiasts must wait even longer in line at the range, while Goober at the counter plays amateur shrink; interviewing each customer and screening for suicidal tendencies.

          And what if they don’t? Or they do, but they get it wrong? Fines? Imprisonment? Shut down the range? It’s all unenforceable and ineffective social welfare theater, as asinine as the TSA or gun “buybacks.”

          You can’t save everyone, folks. About the best you can hope for is not to be standing in the next stall when they freak out.

        • OK, folks. Now imagine a voter who isn’t a confirmed Anti is reading Jonathan’s response. What do you suppose is his reaction? Is it:

          ‘Ya, that’s right. Screw the guy who wants to commit suicide. No reason for the range employee to ask about what sort of gun the guy wants to rent. Just let him point at one and the range employee can load it for him.’

          Or, might it be:
          ‘Gee, don’t you think Jonathan might be just a little more sensitive? How long does it take to ask the customer what kind of gun he wants to rent? What ammunition he wants to buy? Probably doesn’t happen that often, one newbie customer every few dozen. One in a thousand probably doesn’t ring-quite-clear; maybe have to give the RSO a heads-up.’

          We can’t control what the Anti’s say about us. We can only take responsibility for what we say as members of the PotG. What will serve us best in making our case that we are responsible safe gun users who are concerned about the welfare of our fellow citizens?

    • I know! I know! I know!

      Put a check box on the rental agreement that says “I promise not to committed suicide with this firearm.”

      That’ll sure fix it, righty so!

      • ^ – Have a sworn Affidavit section where the renter would declare, under penalty of perjury that they have never committed suicide and are no “not dead.”

      • You laugh, but it might work.

        It seems odd that someone willing to take their own life would be taken aback by having to “lie” on a form, but that silly little line could well be enough of a deterrent to turn the user away (or possibly out them and get them help).

        Odds are if it’s someone who regularly goes to the range and routinely checks the box may well not give it a second thought (but they likely have their own weapon anyway).

        But someone just walking in? Can you imagine being in a suicidal state and someone asking you “Do you plan to injure or kill yourself today”?

        Getting them to vocalize about the topic, even to deny it, may be enough to disrupt the train of thought that led them there in the first place.

  3. There is one giant pink elephant in the room and no one even hit on it yet. In that video. And that is If a person Is suicidal In mentally ill and they wish to kill themselves They are going to use any means necessary. End of story. It has been proven that if a firearm isn’t available They will use whatever is such as a car a rope Water to drown themselves The list goes on and on and on. The problem isn’t the gun the problem is the mentally ill person Remember that y’all!

      • It’s an occupational hazard, and an extremely rare one at that. There is no net-positive solution, so just deal with it when it happene.

  4. Just designate a fast service suicide lane. Consider it a less costly alternative to doctor assisted.

    You can’t prevent it. Just roll with it. Kind of like identity theft or credit fraud.

    • ^ Make them use a Jennings, let those guys rack-up a few kills. Or, make them use a ghost gun kit, they might change their mind when they note the subtle complexities.

      • In a lane separated from the rest in case they don’t for what’s beyond the target, easy to hose out and will minimize investigations impact on other shooters.

    • The suicide service lane should be all stainless steel, for easy wash down with the high pressure sprinkler system. And of course you would want to keep a bucket and mop handy.

      • Power washer and a floor drain should do. There also should be a diving board on each high bridge with concrete LZ under it with the same equipment. It sucks when suicidal people jump through your roof when you live under overpass. Trains being late because there is a jumper tangled on the engine’s front axle are not so great either. Until they come out with Futurama suicide booth we have to make do with what we have.
        Yes, I’m heartless cold bastard. But I don’t believe in people making rush decisions and ending with permanent solution to a temporary problem.
        If someone really wants ‘to end it all’, he will find a way.

  5. One can no more prevent a suicide at a gun range than prevent suicides in homes or church parking lots. Steps might be taken to minimize the risk, but suicide prevention is a pipe dream.

    A newbie leftie may have no close friends with whom he or she may confidentially share the experience of shootin’, but I dare say they probably have acquaintances or family who would be glad to help if the new shooter sucks up enough courage to come out of the closet.

  6. How Do You Prevent Suicides at Gun Ranges?

    Short answer…. you don’t. You can’t.

    Rules, laws, policies, signs…. none of those are prohibitive. It’s illegal to rob banks yet banks still get robbed. You can make it illegal to kill yourself on a a gun range yet people are still going to do it.

    You can minimize the possibility of something happening all kinds of ways. But you can’t prohibit something from happening just by making a rule/law/policy/sign.

  7. ServPro moment.

    After reading that, I had my own limited ServPro moment (assuming they can clean coffee out of keyboards.)

  8. my old home range had a ServPro moment

    Actually, your old home range — my current one — had not one but TWO ServPro moments. The same guy — you know who — had to clean up the brains both times, and he really, really hates that.

    So how do gun ranges prevent suicides? They can’t. But maybe the families and physicians of the suicidal person can. Isn’t it the job of the family and doctors to do that?

    A gun range can rent firearms and teach people how to use guns safely and responsibly. It can’t teach people to love life. Not even their own.

  9. Have a form to sign , have them check the box stating they won’t commit suicide and then prosecutors can nail them after thier dead!
    Problem solved.

  10. Really now, with 319 million folks in the USA and almost a gun for each and every person, the number of suicides at ranges is very VERY small. As I mentioned in an earlier post somewhere here on TTAG, a person walked into Sharp Shooters here in Spokane, stood at the counter, looked at a gun, popped a round it in and put the gun to their head and tunneled a hole through it. The round nearly hit another customer standing at the counter. Not good gun safety to not be sure of what’s beyond their target. Jeesh, what were they thinking before they…..quit thinking?
    Gun shops can adjust their rules to attempt to curtail suicides, but ultimately, the determined person will end their life regardless of method. A good friend of mine did it by swallowing an entire bottle or Ritalin. Not as instant as tunneling a hole through your head, but damn fast.
    I can certainly sympathize with gun shops in attempting to curtail that activity. A person would have to be pretty hard-core to not be affected by the grisly scene of someone who just blew a big hole in their head in your shop. That’s not something most of us ever want to see.

  11. The very first time I rented a firearm at an indoor range, I was required to provide the name and phone number of an acquaintance, much like a referral. Before I was allowed to enter the range, they specifically called that person and asked about my mental state, right in front of me. I asked and they told me it was implemented after a suicide had happened before.

    There are ways to circumvent that rule and still do the deed, but it is a mechanism that stops the person who is just looking for a gun and an easy way out, ignorant of what will be needed before someone puts a firearm in a stranger’s hand. It keeps the range from having to clean up and be subject to litigation, but it certainly won’t stop the person from finding another way.

  12. What’s the appeal of using a rented gun to commit suicide? Sure, it’s cheaper than buying one, but not like you can take the money you saved with you. Do people just not want to spend their final minutes on earth filling out ATF forms? Or do rental ranges just have this problem because those who buy instead of rent take it to a more appropriate place to off themselves?

    • I would guess that most rented-gun suicides are somewhat spur of the moment. It’s convenient and easy, and a lot simpler than buying a gun. Walk in, plunk down your money, and just a few short minutes later, you can blow your brains out. Compared to having to have a conversation with the gun store guy about what kind of gun you want, engaging in idle chit-chat while you and he fill out the paperwork, then taking the gun somewhere else and popping your cork. You have to be pretty determined to follow through on the latter course of action, whereas any idiot who’s really sad that his girlfriend just dumped him can fumble through the former without having a “What the f— am I doing?” moment.

    • I was going to say the same thing – how cheap do you have to be. Just put the gun on your credit card that way you screw over the bank when off yourself. For that matter run up the credit card. Have a nice meal and off yourself in the fancy restaurant.

      On that note I’m going to get ready for dinner locked and loaded.

  13. I feel sorry for the girl in the video, having to put on those nasty old ear protectors, and mess up her “scared stiff” hairdo.

  14. This is yet another problem only solvable at the individual level. So get out there and be a friend. Make sure your buddies don’t become a statistic.

    • Yes. This goes for everything. I venture half the media-hyped “mass shootings” could have been prevented if the shooter just had someone who gave a rat’s ass reach out to them.

    • I knew that one of my friends was on a downward spiral and tried to rescue him. Lord, how I tried. He ended up hanging himself.

      • Sadly sometimes the depression and the self hatred for not being able to be normal or be comfortable acting normal, feeling alien to anyone who is normal, not understanding happiness or how to feel it and not being able to relate to anyone who is makes one feel totally alone and with no connection to anyone and ends up being just too much for someone to take.

        I never knew your friend and can’t say for certain, but there is a decent chance he stuck around longer because of your efforts.

  15. I dont think you can prevent it 100%. All ranges probably reserve the right not rent a firearm, and should probably exercise that discretion towards people who seem a little “off”. Guns seem to be the easiest way out for people in that state. Ranges are the easiest place to access firearms for non owners, or are the most secluded ( public ranges on public lands).

    We had a suicide at a local WMA range a few miles from my house two weeks ago. Some other shooters drove up and found the body when they went to shoot after work. Sad, but it happens.

    Bottom line is, suicides happen. Ranges can attempt to help prevent incidents, but it wont be 100%. Their best best is to shield liability.

  16. Suicide is mostly not solvable. When the decision is made, it becomes a matter of when. The method becomes secondary. Stopping suicide is an issue which must be addressed and conquered well before a person would get to the point of renting a firearm at a range. As policy, at the time of rental, the suicide question should be asked. This might result in stirring an emotion, maybe, but I doubt it.

    Maybe some “No-Suicide Zone” signs need to be installed?

    • YES!
      That’s the answer, no suicide zones! We could just declare all shooting ranges a no “suicide” zone. That should solve the problem. And to make shooting ranges even more safer, we could lock up all guns at the range during business hours! and no owner guns allowed on the premises.
      Man! I knew the genius in us would come out some day!

      • That sign — a silhouette of a person holding a pistol to their head and a big slash across it — would be rather off-putting wouldn’t it?

  17. You have to bring a loved one to sit behind the counter with the owner during your session. Both leave or none do, both sign, no exceptions.

    Or just cut the cameras and swap guns, not like range guns are short on fingerprints, Mr. Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem was trying to rob the place, heroic owner defended his or hers.

    Or we can all accept that those wishing to kill themselves will and the gun offers a small mercy in its efficiency, better than having folks walk in front of School buses all around.. Those that have failed attempts are making a cry for help a lack of guns doesn’t help either group.

  18. You prevent it by making firearms cheaper and easier to buy. Or, you can make less messy ways of committing suicide available to those that want to check out.

    • “Suicide booth” a la Futurama on various street corners?
      -Drops coins into slot. “Kill me please, and make it splatter.”

  19. The rules proposed in the article seem reasonable. Much better than the FL chain that quit renting firearms entirely. Rentals are great for trying out guns, or when traveling without your gat. If you really can’t get someone to go to the range with you, that’s really sad. Especially if you offer to pay.

  20. I met a young guy that tried to end it by putting a large black trash bag over his head and upper body, dumped a can of gas in it and lit it.
    He didnt die but he changed his look forever.

  21. I loved the Miami Mayor. He doesn’t care about suicide unless you use a gun. WTF??

    Jumping in front of a subway train is really inconsiderate. We should make that illegal.

  22. I was wondering if this would make it here. The range in question is RTSP. I shoot there. Just to add a little context:

    When you go to rent they have all new shooters go into a separate line where they have to fill out forms, watch a safety video, talk to instructors, have their picture taken and have their ID checked. If you’ve never shot before they have an RSO personally work with you in your lane (at least in the beginning). If you are wondering, YES, you fill out a sheet with “mental health” questions. The rental guns are even marked with red grips to make it easier to ID.

    It’s a very nice range IMO, and the men and women who work there are also very cool. RSOs are typically stationed every 3 lanes or so, maybe even tighter on the weekends.

    They know the situation in NJ and they know they get a lot of first timers/non-owners, and as such I always thought (and still think) they run a really tight ship. Fuck around and you are booted.

    But all you need to give somebody that follows the rules is a small window of opportunity. An RSO can peek on a misfire in the lane next to you and all it takes is a quick flip and the pistol is under your chin.

    My condolences to the family. Sadly this is the third suicide like this I’ve heard of in 3 years or so. The other two were at the Heritage Guild in Easton PA.

  23. Had one happen at my local range a few years ago. Now the policy there is you either need to have a membership there, your own firearm, or another person with you in order to rent a firearm. Sucks for anyone who doesnt have anyone to take them and is looking to get into firearms.

  24. A couple of sign ideas for the ranges: “IF you want to committ suicide please do it at home so we don’t have to clean up your mess.” OR “If you feel suicidal please call this hotline XXX.XXXX or seek professional for help but don’t do it here.” OR “What if you kill yourself today but tomorrow might have been better ?” Perhaps a combination of one or more of these.

  25. In my area, near Seattle, WA you can rent a pistol if you are alone and also have a CPL. No CLP and alone, sorry NO. Guess they figure if you took the time to get your CPL you probably aren’t going to committ suicide or would have done it before you arrived. Not sure about the logic on that one as no training requirements in WA for a CPL. Background check sure but that just means you have not gone in for help yet.

  26. 50 suicides in 7 years at ranges is actually fairly insignificant if you consider other methods. Consider that on average the official toll of the Golden Gate Bridge from its inception was over 17 people when they discontinued the practice in 1995.

    Suicide is a symptom of problems in a society. Look at Japan who has super strict gun control and a way higher suicide rate, or countries like Australia and Canada who implemented harsh gun control and saw their gun related suicides drop but overall suicide stay basically unchanged. Closing all the “loopholes” in the world doesn’t prevent suicide. It is something that starts with people and ends with people for better or worse.

    In the end they got one thing right; The us and them mentality the antis push does little to prevent this sort of action. Range employees who are conscious of people like who are looking for a suicide solution

    • “Consider that on average the official toll of the Golden Gate Bridge from its inception was over 17 people when they discontinued the practice in 1995.”

      Well, there’s your answer. They should just do the same thing and discontinue the practice of gun-range suicide.

  27. I don’t think gun ranges should do anything.

    If a range were particularly concerned, they could have a small sign with the telephone number for a suicide prevention hotline and even hand out a small card with that information with every rental.

  28. Without knowing that person’s intentions it is almost impossible to prevent someone who is determined to end their own life.

    Short of having someone trained in mental health evaluations on duty while the range is open mitigating against suicide (although that comes with it’s own liabilities) placing the onus on the range seems like an unreasonable burden.

  29. Two of my instructors have had suicides. One a cop went off the deep end; was disarmed by his agency. Booked a “lesson” and offed himself in front of the instructor. Claimed his profession was teacher. Another instructor just happened to be a customer at the range. Med school student couldn’t take it any more. There is nothing we can do to reduce these incidents below some unknowable floor.

    That conceded, WE the PotG ought to use these cases to enhance our image before the non-gun-owning community. To this end it is counter-productive to deny, deflect and defy those whose sentiments are that “SOMETHING MUST be DONE!!”.

    One range I patronize has a rule: No single first-time MALE shooters. Single ladies are welcome; no guys. They explain that this works pretty well. Females don’t shoot themselves. Men don’t bring their friends along. A suicide is probably going to kill himself anyway – but, it’s somewhere else and not on OUR “watch”.

    The screening at gun shops is good; again, the person is likely to be able to figure out some alternative means. However, if our LGSs are seen to be doing something then we are doing good PR to try to address the problem. Likewise, if our LGSs are telling their customers to watch for symptoms of depression among their acquaintances, then we the PotG are seen to be making a constructive effort.

    If we publicize that we are doing whatever it is that is within OUR capacity to do as members of the society then it’s good PR for our issue (whether that issue is a pastime, self-defense or the security of a free state.) And, then, we are on the high ground to ask (publicly) what the Moms who Demand Action are doing that is comparable to our efforts.

    Let’s face it; we the PotG really have the “muscle” to put behind the PR wars. Bloomberg, Brady, et al. can bellow all they want about “gun safety”. The NRA can answer “Gun safety, since 1871”. The NRA can say that they have X,000 certified instructors who taught Y0,000 First-Steps gun courses in the past year; how many gun safety classes has Bloomberg taught?

    Same thing on child safety. NRA and NSSF have courses for children. Show us your curriculum for children Bloomberg/Brady/et al.

    Same for suicide. LGSs have this program, ranges have another program. Maybe NRA could write articles in their publications about how to identify a troubled acquaintance. What have the so-called “gun-safety” organizations done?

    Once we start thinking in these terms then we make our case with the MSM. Tell the MSM what we PotG are doing and challenge them to ask the “gun-safety” organizations about their efforts. Keep hammering away and we will smoke-them-out. Either they will find themselves compelled to spend resources on competitive safety programs; or, they will have to admit that they are not interested in gun-safety – just gun-control. Make them eat their own propaganda. If they are about gun-safety where are their gun-safety efforts?

    How does it endear us to the voters if we simply:
    – deny that gun accidents numerous enough to justify efforts to reduce them further?
    – assert that people who shoot themselves would find other means to commit suicide?
    – assert that criminals deprived of guns will use knives or blunt objects?

    If, instead, our rhetoric is:
    – gun accidents are rare, but our goal is to reduce them next year and the year after that . . .
    – we are concerned with people so distressed that they kill themselves, we want to help them turn away from suicide, not help them choose a different means . . .
    – criminals need to be dissuaded from violence or incarcerated – choice of weapon isn’t a root cause . . .
    then we will seem to be the rational contributors to the public discourse.

  30. QoTD: How do you prevent suicides at gun ranges?

    A: Aside from getting suicidal people the help they need before they attempt to blow their brains out, you simply can’t.

  31. This happened at a range I use. They barely notice anyone and do not have a range officer monitoring it. And they rent a lot of guns. Almost too EZ. Folks are gonna’ figure out how to kill themselves…

  32. My local range has had quite a few suicides over the years. Yet they are still the biggest and best indoor range and shop in the state, including 5 star NSSF rating.

    I don’t have any solution to stopping suicides other than getting to the ROOT of the cause instead of attempting to ‘treat’ a symptom. Changing everyone’s diapers because one person shit his own isn’t the way to go.

  33. All rental guns should have a substantial metal ring welded around the muzzle, with lugs, so it can be locked to three or four chains or wire ropes from the sides of the stall, floor and ceiling, that are just long enough to reach. This will keep the muzzle pointing down range. There should be a barrier to keep the shooter from getting in front of it, like lucite with a 1-foot hole that the shooter can put his or her arms through to reach the gun on the other side.

    Problem solved. It’ll cost a fortune to set up the ranges and guns this way, but hey, that’ll create jobs.

  34. You certainly cannot stop suicides completely but there are some warning signs that can be watched for.

    An unknown person attending on their own who knows very little about guns would be a combination that would raise alarms. More so if they don’t want assistance.

    At the ranges I attend, new people are always assisted, even if they are licensed and have their own firearms.

  35. My cousin is a police officer, and was present at my range when a young lady committed suicide with a rental pistol. He told me he could tell something was off about her, as she had dressed very nicely, and had her make-up and hair perfect, for a woman going to the range.

    He was concerned she was going to hurt someone else or herself. While he was warning his shooting partner that he was considering action, she went ahead and committed suicide. Even for an experienced cop, he did not enjoy watching her die.

    I believe range now has policies in place regarding nonmembers who show up alone, but short of that, it is very difficult to stop.

  36. The problem is there are more things that cause deaths in America than suicide. Not downplaying suicide but background checks for gun rentals is stupid and does not show who might be suicidal or not. Background checks only show one’s limited recorded history, not their current mental health condition.

    As for having range clerk’s trying to engage me about how I’m doing or why I want to shoot is not something I want to discuss at times. Sure I will talk with owners and clerks a lot but many times I go shooting to practice, relieve stress or just be by myself; many times its just that I want to get away from stupid people and there is nothing wrong with that. Some folks go on hikes, I shoot guns.

    The problem is that libtards and progressives are trying to legislate away our gun rights under the guise of protecting everyone. Big problem is you can’t protect everyone.

    • Important thing here is PR. We want to show that we ARE concerned and we are DOING something – however modest – to guard against the possibility.

      I would NOT advocate interviewing every customer. Obviously, once the range employees recognize you then there is no point in trying to assess your mental state that day. True, you might be an experience gun user who just decided to commit suicide at a range that morning. The public isn’t going to hold the PotG responsible for missing such a case.

      Rather, the “poster child” incident is likely to be the 20-something who went to THAT range for the first (possibly second) time. Didn’t have any formal/informal credentials. Rented a gun. Didn’t get any particular special attention.

      Under the best of circumstances that – nevertheless, go bad – such a case would lead to an RSO being assigned to supervise this new customer. He watches her go through a few magazines. Maybe she shows adequate knowledge and control over the operations. The RSO steps away for a moment or turns to attend to another matter that distracts him – then she turns the gun on herself.

      The poser-child quality of such a scenario will be diluted. The range did what it could. Gave the customer special attention until the customer demonstrated adequate competence. What more would the public expect? If this suicide were that determined and well-enough collected to get through personal supervision, they would imagine she would have off’ed herself by some other means even if a gun range had foiled her attempt.

      We don’t need to STOP many incidents (if any at all); we need to control our own optics. Vociferously declaring that (some of us) just don’t give a damn doesn’t do anything positive for the image of guns in civilian hands. Simply discussing how we can take some modest precautions will go a long way.

  37. Its crazy that this is my home range and the town ive lived in for many years. And i see it popping up on multiple sites questioning range suicides. Its an awful situation. That has now happened twice in two monthes to RTSP. We will see what changes this time.

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