Occasional TTAG commentator Mikeb302000 posed an interesting question this morning on his blog. He linked to the sad story of one Stephen Daniels, a man who rented a gun and shot himself in the head at the Firing-Line indoor shooting range in Burbank, California. Mikeb302000 asked “What ‘safety measures’ can a shooting range implement anyway that will prevent folks from blowing their brains out?” Mr. Mike had a simple answer . . .
One safety measure they haven’t tried yet is a big padlock on the front door. I’ll bet that would stop the suicides.
But seriously folks, it’s a conundrum for people who work at gun ranges, like our home range American Firearms School. When do you say “no” to someone who wants to rent a gun?
There are legal, practical and commercial reasons for gun range staff to avoid the issue of suicidal shooters entirely.
In terms of legal blowback, I’m not saying someone would sue a private gun range for not allowing them to shoot. But I’m not saying they wouldn’t sue, just as I can’t say the family of a gun range suicide wouldn’t sue a range for not preventing the victim from shooting themselves. This being America and all.
Suffice it to say, the current policy of not asking question about a shooter’s mental health is the least risky legal strategy for a gun range. Which is why that’s the way it is. This being America and all.
Practically, how do you train gun range staff to identify someone who’s suicidal? Highly trained shrinks and psychologists miss it all the time. Families miss it. Friends miss it. Forget that hang-dog lack of eye contact idea of a depressive on the edge. Someone who’s about to kill themselves can seem cal, relaxed and yes, friendly.
From a business point-of-view, screening gun range customers for mental health issues would be, pardon the word choice, commercial suicide. “Normal” customers would not frequent a gun range where the staff questions their mental health or, God forbid, tap into a health care database.
Which leaves us with what, Mikeb302000’s padlock?
Almost. Common sense suggests that an alert and sensitive gun range staff member might be able to gently question a shooter’s mental health if they sensed something amiss. A simple question to a suspected suicide—do you feel alright?—could open the door to a successful intervention. It’s not likely, but it is possible.
Meanwhile, I recommend an idea that’s a lot easier and less legally fraught: a Good Samaritan’s (or similar org’s) poster offering a helpline number. The poster doesn’t have to be prominent enough to ruin a “normal” shooter’s mindset. But it could be there, somewhere, within view.
Any other ideas?