Automatic weapons not fired on all area shooting ranges

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Shooting ranges in the region make their own policies on whether or not they allow fully automatic weapons to be fired or not.

Policies on automatic weapons are under the microscope after a shooting range instructor was accidentally shot and killed by a nine-year-old girl he was instructing on how to properly use an Uzi, a fully automatic sub-machine gun.

According to Rocky Stotts, who instructs people on the shooting ranges at Hillside Shooting Sports near Roanoke and is a retired Captain with the Indiana State Police, there are no state laws that limit who can use the powerful weapon.

Stotts said the general public can not use automatic guns at their ranges. “They’d be used if a law enforcement agency or a SWAT team wanted to train with them here,” he said. “That would be a professional though, who has experience with the weapon.”

Stotts said he was shocked to hear about the news from Arizona.

“When I first learned of that, you can’t help but feel what a tragedy,” Stotts said. “Unfortunately, occasionally firearm accidents do happen.”

With no state gun laws prohibiting children from using a firearm on a shooting range, it comes down to using common sense on what weapon is appropriate for a child to handle. At Hillside, rules on the shooting ranges state that children under eight are not allowed on the shooting range firing line, but children aren’t prohibited completely.

“Some of the young people who come out here are interested in learning how to use a firearm to accompany mom or dad on a hunting trip,” said Stotts, who added there are a lot of factors in determining when a child is the right age to learn how to shoot. “The age of the child depends on their overall maturity level and their physical size, often times. Some folks want to bring their children out here to basically expose them to the shooting sports and not necessarily fire a weapon. We encourage that.”

While Hillside does not train people with fully automatic weapons, some ranges do. Midwest Gun & Range in Elkhart have fully automatic weapons available for rental. An instructor monitors the user renting the gun.

At Hillside, children’s getting their first hands-on experience won’t shoot a powerful weapon to start.

“A nine-year-old, we would think about starting them off with an airsoft gun, or maybe a BB gun,” Stotts said. “Then as they progressive in age, 10 or 11 years old, we would move them into an air rifle. It’s typically a little more powerful. Then onto a 22-rifle, which is a firearm at that point, but by that time they’re 12 or 13.”

A NRA-certified instructor in the region told NewsChannel 15 that there are no laws that require shooting range instructors to be NRA certified.  The NRA is the only non-military branch or non-law enforcement agency that certifies shooting instructors.

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