For a first timer visiting On Target, a gun range in Severn, Md., the experience could be intimidating.
The walls are covered with hunting guns, photos of staff at gun shows and a wide selection of targets for shooting, like clowns and numbered targets so you can rate your shooting on the range. Some employees assist customers from behind a glass-encased counter full of over 70 handgun available to rent on the shooting range, while other sales associates greet customers from behind a glass-encased counter full of over 100 guns for sale.
“We have one of the largest gun selections in the state of Maryland, that’s why people come to us,” said Danielle Smith, the range manager. “We’re top quality.”
With Beretta being On Target’s brand of choice, the Beretta Nano 9x19mm is the most rented gun for beginners because it is one of the smallest pocket guns and easiest to manage. The Beretta Full Size Storm 9mm is also for rent as another easy-to-manage, though more powerful, piece. Among the many choices of revolvers for rent, the Stampede Nickel .45 Colt is rented to licensed gun owners only. The Beretta 87 Target, 22 LR is another weapon for rent solely for those licensed to handle a gun, mainly a choice for police officers.
Despite such an extensive arsenal of weaponry, safety certification plaques on the walls assure customers that On Target has served the community for over 25 years and was named by the state of Maryland one of the most comfortable and safest indoor shooting ranges and retailers in the state.
On a recent weekend afternoon, the 16 position, 25 yard shooting range is filled with men and a few women all engaging in target practice. The first half hour at the shooting range is $10 for one person and $12 for two. For each additional hour, a single shooter is charged $5 and a pair is charged $8. There is an additional $10 gun rental fee.However, rental guns may be exchanged for different models and calibers throughout the duration of the visit with no additional charge.
On Target offers membership to shooters who use the range at least twice a month. Members pay $200 for the first year and a $175 renewal fee. Each November, the members are invited to a members-only sale where they can purchase guns at a discount. Members also get priority in selecting gun lanes and are notified when new merchandise arrives at On Target.
“The average person to want to shoot at On Target is usually a Caucasian male, around the age of 25 to 50. That’s our everyday customer,” Smith said.
According to Range Listings given by Maryland’s State Police website, there are 70 indoor and outdoor ranges in Maryland. On Target is at the top of the list for having the largest gun variety and selection.
Although few customers wanted to discuss their interest in the shooting range, Nate Grages, a retired construction worker and a daily customer at the range, said shooting has been a lifetime hobby.
“I’ve always loved guns since I was child,” Grages said. “My father took me shooting and it’s stuck since then. I come here every day.”
To purchase a gun at On Target, you must be a licensed owner, with the proper forms of identification. To legally purchase a gun in the state of Maryland, a person must purchase it from a private security licensed company or firearm dealer approved to do business in Maryland. You must be 18 or older and complete an application that is reviewed by the State Police. The applicant is required to provide information regarding his eligibility to purchase or possess a handgun and a description including a serial number of the handgun being purchased. The State Police decide from the information provided whether the applicant is approved for or denied ownership. There is a separate application process for those interested in carrying a hand gun.
Many On Target customers declined to discuss their views on guns, gun law reform and gun ranges’ relation to the recent proliferation of gun violence throughout the community.
“It’s not hard to get a gun, whether it’s legal or not, and that’s the issue our country is facing right now,” said 25-year-old Alexander Joseph, a, frequent range visitor.
The recent gun range shooting in Texas, where former Navy Seal and author of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were shot and killed, has raised a debate about safety at gun ranges.
According to news reports, Kyle and Littlefield took 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh, a recent Iraq War veteran, to a gun range to help him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Once at the range, Texas law enforcement officials said, Routh fatally shot Kyle and Littlefield.
Smith, the On Target manager, does not think a similar incident could happen at her shooting range. “It won’t happen here, we’ve been trained to secure our range,” Smith said.
At On Target, there are no uniformed security officers at the entrances. But On Target displays rules that customers must agree to abide by before they are allowed to enter the range. All licensed customers who come with their own firearms must unload guns before entering the premises. Ear and eye protection gear must be worn at all times in the range. Most importantly to prevent any accidental shootings, your firearm must remain inside your lane at all times.
“You have a choice to be responsible,” said 24-year-old customer Priscilla Sanchez. “I hope people choose that choice. No one man should take a life. If you need to shoot come to a range don’t take it into your hands to take a life. It has to stop.”