BELLEVUE — Two suicides within five days have prompted Wade’s Gun Shop to stop renting guns to people who come to the suburban Seattle shooting range alone.
A person can still come in alone to target shoot with his own gun, but those who want to rent a gun must have someone with them.
The change in policy comes after the suicides of Georg Frey of Issaquah and Christina Rose of Kirkland, who each rented a handgun at the range earlier this month before turning it on themselves.
Wade’s owner Wade Gaughran declined to comment on how he’s dealing with the second and third suicides at his range since 1997. But an unidentified range manager who answered the phone at Wade’s said the shop no longer rents to lone shooters. Those who rent guns must also be at least 21 years old and have some stated shooting experience.
There have been at least 16 similar gun-rental suicides across Western states in the past five years, an Eastside newspaper reported.
But range managers and other members of the commercial shooting range industry say suicides are rare and most gun ranges are safe.
"It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to identify a potential suicide," said Rick Patterson, spokesman for the National Association of Shooting Ranges. "Our experience has been that most ranges are very safe and very successful at setting their own rules. Even high school football is far more dangerous for fatalities than your local gun range."
Both of the suicides at Wade’s Gun Shop happened during the evening.
Frey, 49, took a rented gun into a restroom on Dec. 1 and shot himself in the chest. Days earlier, a group of unhappy investors had confronted him about real estate deals in which he was involved.
Rose rented a gun from the shop on Dec. 6 and answered "yes" when asked if she had shooting experience, though employees told police she seemed nervous and uncomfortable. A little later, an employee found her in a pool of blood on the floor of the shooting range. A friend, Rafael Sanchez, said she had a history of depression, anxiety and suicide threats.
"We think the fact that virtually anyone can go to a range and rent a gun on the spot is a loophole in the law," said Washington Ceasefire director Bruce Gryniewski. "We’re looking into what can be done on a legislative level."
In 1997, Eric T. Kim of Seattle fatally shot himself at Wade’s Gun Shop. He was upset after finding out he wouldn’t graduate from the University of Washington on time, police said.
Weapon Safety Inc., another local shooting range that rents guns, said the recent suicides at Wade’s have caused it to make the same policy change regarding gun rentals.
"It’s not Wade’s fault," said John Clifford, owner of Weapon Safety Inc. "We’re very lucky at WSI that this has never happened. We’ve had a few people we’ve identified as potential suicides, and we called the police. We’ve been able to spot it in their demeanor."
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