Local News

Wake sheriff details reasons for wanting gun range closed

Posted December 23, 2019 4:38 p.m. EST
Updated December 23, 2019 5:16 p.m. EST

— Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker on Monday laid out his reasoning for wanting to shut down a local shooting range.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office last week canceled its contract for the Wake Firearms Training Center in Apex, which provides firearms training to the public as well as to law enforcement officers.

But county officials then said Wake County would assume control of the range, at 3921 Old Holly Springs Apex Road, noting county funds were used to construct the facility for public use.

"It is a community asset, and Wake County commissioners and staff will work to ensure that the facility is again made available for the community’s use as soon as possible," county Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Ford said late Friday.

The sheriff's office said it has provided $250,000 to Range Safety Management LLC, which operates the gun range, every year, with the expectation that the range would generate enough revenue to cover that cost as well as to pay for maintenance. But the range has never come close to covering the cost – in calendar year 2018, for example, it generated only $182,570 in revenue – forcing the sheriff's office to spend even more to subsidize the range.

In addition to cost concerns, the sheriff's office cited safety concerns in canceling RSM's contract.

An RSM firearms instructor shot himself in the leg while holstering his gun at the range, authorities said. He failed to report the incident in a timely manner, and when it was reported, false information was provided, authorities said.

RSM also didn't provide safety officers at the range on at least two occasions, in breach of the contract, authorities said.

Because county officials have told department heads to look at their existing budgets to find money to pay for new expenses in the coming year, the sheriff's office said the RSM contract "was a financial liability to the office’s base budget" and should be canceled.

Baker said he felt compelled to respond after Ford criticized the sheriff's reasoning for closing the range to the public and expressed irritation last week that county officials weren't notified ahead of time.

"While senior team members and I are surprised by the response from our county partners, we do acknowledge that, while it is not a requirement to notify the county, we should have extended the courtesy to the county staff advising them of the specific date of the contract’s cancellation," Baker said in a statement. "Similarly, the county should have extended me the courtesy of responding to me regarding my decision to cancel the contract."

Officials are working with RSM to honor classes scheduled through Jan. 5, authorities said.

Ford said the Board of Commissioners and county staff will discuss finding a new operator for the range in January.

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