Another shooting range suicide spurs a protest

Acorn Staff Writer

RENTED TARGET RANGE GUNS CALLED DANGEROUS--Protestors picket the corner of Agoura and Cornell roads near the Agoura Target Range requesting that background checks be taken on people who want to rent a gun. Protestors allege that five people have used rented guns at the range to commit suicide. A target range spokesman said they do check records before renting.

RENTED TARGET RANGE GUNS CALLED DANGEROUS–Protestors picket the corner of Agoura and Cornell roads near the Agoura Target Range requesting that background checks be taken on people who want to rent a gun. Protestors allege that five people have used rented guns at the range to commit suicide. A target range spokesman said they do check records before renting.

The Agoura Hills Target Range should take extra steps before renting firearms to its customers, said the mother of a 31-year-old man who committed suicide at the range last summer.


Robert Prince, a Thousand Oaks man with a history of mental illness, rented a shotgun and killed himself on July 15, 2000.


The owner of the range said Prince was a frequent visitor who passed all previous background checks.


Rosemary Prince and about a dozen friends and family members picketed the business at 5040 Cornell Road last Sunday, imploring owners to start checking with Department of Justice (DOJ) files to see if customers have a record of instability.


Prince said her son was a paranoid-schizophrenic who was unable to purchase a gun, so he went to the range and rented one.


"He was so paranoid at that time," Prince said. "He thought everyone was against him. He could have hurt others and thank I thank God he didn’t do it, but I’m afraid that’s going to happen because anyone can go in there and rent a gun."


Prince became the fifth suicide in the 18-year history of the range and the fourth since 1995.


Another customer, a 40-year-old Woodland Hills woman, killed herself with a rented handgun in 1999. The first incident at the Agoura Hills range occurred in the mid-1980s when a man in his mid-40s arrived, rented a gun and shot himself immediately.


Range owner Jim Davis said first-time visitors must fill out forms and wait seven days before target shooting. Those wishing to purchase a weapon are scrutinized further.


"We make every effort to sift out people that appear questionable as to their mood or being influenced by drugs or alcohol," said Davis in a statement to the protesters. "We wish that we could have detected the problem that Bobby was experiencing, but we are not family and we did not see him that often."


Davis said Prince had come to the range since 1998, but never rented a weapon. Because he had a customer card on file and showed proficiency using the firearms of friends, he was allowed to rent the shotgun without the seven-day wait.


"If we have a question on a person’s ability we’ll query our people at the local sheriff’s department and they’ll run a check and say if he’s okay or not okay," Davis said.


The checks showed no history of criminal or mental problems, Davis said, but he admitted that Prince seemed "disheveled" the morning he came in with a friend and shot himself. A range employee called 911, but the blast to Prince’s head proved instantly fatal.


According to government statistics, the annual rate of firearm suicides continues to spiral. More than 60 percent of suicide victims choose death by gunshot, a figure often cited by gun control advocates.


Prince’s mother said she planned to petition the Agoura Hills City Council next week asking the range to beef up its security measures. Davis said he would appear at the same meeting.


"If my son couldn’t rent the gun, maybe in a few more minutes he would have changed his mind," Prince said.


The protesters held signs and stood near the range for about three hours.


Davis said he grieves with Prince’s parents, but added that his range abides by all laws.




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