Suicide (and sometimes murder) on the Gun Range

Sometimes, a person shows up at a gun range, checks out a gun ostensibly to use in target practice on the range, but instead uses the gun to commit suicide. In one case not long ago, a woman brought her teenage son to the range, and checked out two pistols. They took turn shooting for a while, then, while he was aiming his firearm at the target, she shot him in the back of the head and then shot herself. So that was murder-suicide. Now and then a person goes to the shooting range, and while shooting end up shooting themselves dead but it is not clear if it was an accident or suicide.

A quick search of google reveals a number of cases like this reported in the news. I’ve put links to and excerpts from a handful of them below. Did you know this was a thing? Apparently it is.

2009 August

CASSELBERRY, Fla. — A central Florida woman who fatally shot her son then killed herself at a shooting range wrote in suicide notes to her boyfriend that she was trying to save her son.
“I’m so sorry,” Marie Moore wrote several times. “I had to send my son to heaven and myself to Hell.” … She signed two of the notes “Failed Queen.”

2010 October

A Weston man shot and killed himself Friday morning at the Arizona Shooting Range in Lauderdale Lakes, leaving behind a suicide note, authorities said.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office identified the victim as a 47-year-old Weston man, but did not release his name.

The suicide occurred at about 10:45 a.m. at 4325 North State Road 7, said Veda Coleman, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.

“He shot himself there at the gun range,” Coleman said. “He did leave behind a note.”

2010 November

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A photocopy of a magazine cover about the Columbine school shooting was found among the belongings of Australian twin sisters who shot themselves in a suicide pact at a Colorado shooting range, authorities said Friday.

However, it remained unclear why Kristin and Candice Hermeler, both 29, had the cover of Time headlined “The Monsters Next Door/What Made Them Do It?” and why the sisters made the plan to kill themselves, authorities said. One of the women survived.

2012 February

A 52-year-old Tamarac man killed himself Saturday morning at a Broward shooting range, according to a Broward’s Sheriff’s Office release. When police went to notify his wife at home, they found her dead in a possible murder-suicide.

Police report that the man rented a gun at the Arizona Shooting Range & Emporium in Lauderdale Lakes at 10:18 a.m. He then went into the target-shooting area and shot himself in the head at 10:33 a.m., according to the release.

2012 July

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WTVR)–The owner of The Smoking Gun pistol range didn’t want to appear on TV, but he did want to set the record straight about the suicide inside his business five days ago.

It began with the sound of gunshots inside a shooting range. It’s safe to say it’s common to hear that sound there, but a shot last week still haunts the range owner. “I yelled, ‘Lieutenant!” he said. “’You have five minutes,’ but he didn’t acknowledge me.”… Second Lieutenant James Cho, an Army Reserve officer was dead. The gunshot wound to the head was later determined to be a suicide. The Smoking Gun’s owner says Cho was in a position that he’ll never forget

2012 November

KENT COUNTY, MI – As family of Mark Sobie grieve his death after a self-inflicted gunshot wound last week at a Wyoming shooting range, they question why no laws prevented him from renting a firearm.

A background check, they say, would have shown the 43-year-old’s felony bank robbery conviction, an offense that led him to serve 30 months in federal prison. The criminal record prevents him from purchasing or possessing a gun.

More like this

I do like going to the gun range, but I would really like to just see them stop providing firearms. I am not sure if the one near me does, but it seems like the loophole of loopholes for crazies.

Six cases in four years doesn't make an epidemic; more people kill themselves with drain cleaner or jumping off buildings. Certainly, it's not ethical to commit suicide in public and cause trouble for other people. But if you are determined to kill yourself and don't own a gun, doing it with a rental gun will cause far less harm to others than deliberately getting yourself killed in a traffic "accident" or setting up a good cop to shoot you, both of which are things that people seem to do more than twice a year - and it's a lot easier on you than the drain cleaner.
I don't see what your point is here. Do you mean to suggest that this handful of people would not have killed themselves if we did not have manned shooting ranges that rent guns (which are for many the only way to learn to shoot before buying a gun, as some people think should be a requirement)? These suicides, though sometimes obviously due to mental illness, were considered and preplanned. I would assume that if there had been no gun range, these unhappy people would probably have killed themselves anyway, perhaps by a much messier method. Japan is one of the most disarmed countries on earth and their suicide rate is far higher than ours.

Felons are prohibited from purchasing a firearm. True. What keps them from breaking in and stealing one?

Background checks are important, but a felon will not walk into a gun store and try to buy a gun. That would be stupid. instead he has multiple options:

1) steal a gun from a gun owner. Now that we have newspapers listed them all, he has many choices of wehere he can now obtain one.

2) He can buy from an individual. One individual selling a product to another indivdual is not illegal. Though I agree that the seller should at least know some history on the guy first.

3) The felon can go into mexico and buy all the guns he wants cheaper than here and simply walk back into the states with them. it's not like the border is actually guarded or anhthing. Most of the guns in mexico are TRUE assault rifles - full auto - mostly coming from Nicaruago who got them from Russi and Iran. The rest, the Obama administration gave them for free - sort of like the free grenades, machine guns, and should fired missles the CIA gives to terrorists in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. ban guns for american patriots, but give full military hardware to out enemies. Smart, mr. President.Very smart. Makes me wonder if that muslim president conspiracy theory realis a thery or not. Seems like he supports them more than his own people sometimes.

By Kevin sanders (not verified) on 17 Jan 2013 #permalink

Kevin, I think we are done with the tired old argument that says "There should be no laws ... because CRIMINALS!!!1!"

I'm from Nevada and it is easy to get a gun here. Most of my friends have guns and five of them have died with their own guns. There were two suicides, two accidents and one was murdered by her husband. No one that I know has used one for self defense at home. The thing is, I would say that 99.9% of the time drain cleaners and buildings are used for something useful. The guns in question are only used to kill things,often people. If we need a safe humane way to let people commit suicide I would rather look to Dr. Kevorkian. Japan also has far fewer acts of gun violence against _other_ people and we can also get drugs from south of the border but we actually have laws against that.

Also, the U.S. still remains the largest gun exporter on the planet.…

hobgot - The number of accidental firearms deaths per year in the U.S. is in the hundreds, in a population of over 300 million people. If two of your friends have accidentally killed themselves with firearms, you have a statistically much dumber or clumsier than average group of friends. And when you claim that their guns "are only used to kill things, often people," I wonder whether they would agree that that's a fair assessment, or that using guns to "kill things" in hunting is not a "useful" purpose.

hobgot - I've run into this mem of the US being the largest exporter of guns before. The first time I saw it I knew it coudn't be true, becouse the number one most common gun in the world is the AK-47 (or a clone) and they arn't made in the US.
I went ahead and read the Huffpo article you linked to and right under the pie graph showing how much weapons each country exports (in dollars) it lists the companies that have the highest sales. they were Lockheed Martin, BAE systems, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Raytheon.
These are not gun manufacturers, the make jet fighters, bombers, tanks, APCs, and other war fighting machines. Not only are they not in the business of selling pistols or rifles, but the weapons they do sell, like F22's and M1A3 Abrams' can only be sold to the governments that the US governments says they can be sold to.

By Schitzree (not verified) on 19 Jan 2013 #permalink

Jane, I'll concede your point about long rifles & shotguns having a legitimate purpose, but how do you justify assault rifles & handguns? They are specifically designed for easily killing & maiming humans, and nothing else.

Schitzree -- you make a very good point about needing to define "gun". On the other hand, AK-47 being the most popular gun doesn't necessarily contradict the claim since the most popular thing of any category doesn't have to represent a majority. Totally off the top of my head and without having figures of any kind, I'd be willing to put money on Russia being the world's largest arms exporter, though.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 21 Jan 2013 #permalink

Artor - Not true. Handguns are carried by some people in rural areas as a portable form of defense against dangerous animals. They are also a portable, or at home less cumbersome, form of defense against dangerous humans. Their efficacy for that purpose depends on at least the threat of deadly force, so you can describe that as being "for killing and maiming humans" - however, whether it is acceptable to kill or maim a would-be rapist or murderer is a value judgement on which my mind is pretty well made up.

As for "assault rifles", these have been defined by cosmetic features which, as you say, are not necessary for hunting, but also don't add to the deadliness of the gun. In fact, ironically, primarily military calibers are often underpowered relative to large-game rifles and less likely to kill a human. You see, in warfare killing a soldier removes one man from the battlefield, whereas wounding him removes both him and a couple of others who have to go to his aid and carry him away, so the designers of these weapons consider it desirable to wound as many as possible. For hunting large animals, that's precisely what you don't want to do, so such weapons are inferior.

AK-47 design is not covered by copyright, anyone in the world can print them up and produce them, that's why there's a lot of them. The US is the largest single exporter of firearms, that claim is correct.

The data is not at all ambiguous, firearms are definitely a public health hazard that cause far more harm than good, and owning a gun is a really good way to get shot. But there is no point arguing with gun-cultists anymore than you would argue with a creationist (for the most part they are the same people actually). These are people who don't believe in evidence-based reasoning to begin with and there's a direct correlation between firearm ownership and lower levels of education and intelligent levels. The best strategy for dealing with people like Jane is to keep donating to gun control groups and pressuring your reps and just ram the legislation down their throat.

This is so sad - I wish there was a way to help people who feel this way....depression is such a terrible condition.

i cant stand this anymore. why even try to tell you how bad my life is. i hear about so many kids getting bullied and it is a big deal but i wish i only got bullied instead of everything else. i suffer from extreme depression and i am going to suicide. i don't give a fuck what you guys are going to say because i probably wont live long enough to see your. comments

By unknown.. (not verified) on 15 Aug 2014 #permalink

You also didn't leave any other way to contact you all you may get are comments. I'll just say this. 99.99% of people under the age of about 45 who get very serious about suicide but end up not doing it are glad they did not do it, and later feel that having done it would have been a mistake.

While it is true that there is a lot of stuff that people have to go through, fighting depression alone doesn't have to be one of them. As an anonymous comment on a blog, I would hope that making this here would mean there is a little spark of consciousness that will lead you back to read the comments. There are so very many people who have been at that very point - and not because of bullying. (Though maybe bullying is *included* in my own experience, though certainly not the only thing that was inducing the thoughts.) Depression is a manipulative and lying shitstain. It is invisible to other people, and makes them ignore the pain. That seems to cause a circle effect, causing a person suffering to shame themselves for feeling the pain. The disorder is real, and it can be treated. I have no idea where you live. Where I am, I found an organization that based my treatment on a sliding scale - when I was making $7.25/hour. I would urge you to take whatever small moment of active motivation you have to do something to yourself, and instead try to turn it to entering some search terms in a search engine for your area. I don't know how isolated you are, but if you know anyone at all, online or in person, reach out to talk to them. Even if you think you will hate reading/listening. It will help a little. And take care of yourself as if you are someone you have no reason to hate. Think of someone on a bus who you don't know. You wouldn't say the things you say to yourself to them. Try to treat yourself AT LEAST as good as that. And maybe come back and leave contact info.

Hi unknown,
I too have suffered from severe depression and attempted suicide several times. I am so thankful I didn't succeed. Greg is right. Your in too dark of a place to see it right now but this feeling will change.

I'm listening.

I, too, have suffered from suicidal thoughts. I have struggled with it since childhood. I've even come close to committing suicide. I am glad I didn't. Working through depression and other mental health issues is very hard work, but it can improve quality of life.
Please hang on.

For those who suffer from depression, bi-polar, insomnia, OCD, etc., and especially those considering suicide:

Read up on
5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP)

It's a non-synthetic nutritional supplement that re-balances the neurotransmitters in your brain and normalizes mood, ending mood swings and "bleak, black thoughts".

It has no side-effects (like those that mood-enhancing drugs are famous for).

Tryptophan & 5-HTP are the only two precursors for making serotonin, the "brake fluid" for your neurons -- without which you cannot stop depressive or obsessive thoughts. ("Willpower" is pressing the brake pedal, but nothing useful happens if there's no brake fluid.)

You can find it in most big-name pharmacies in the vitamin section. You do not have to live with this condition, and killing yourself is NOT the solution.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 16 Aug 2014 #permalink

Unknown, you don't have to go through this alone. Follow the link that Kara provided, please. Like Pyra said, treatment doesn't have to be expensive.

By John Moeller (not verified) on 16 Aug 2014 #permalink

First I'd like to say if you want to talk you can hit me up on twitter. Refer me to this post and I will follow you and we can DM as long as you need. I've lived with suicidal ideations since I was a preteen and even recently deal with depression that has left me curled crying in the bathroom holding a kitchen knife. I don't have perfect words but I can try. I can't guarantee that the troubles in life that have brought you to this point will get better. I can say that if you give it time, it is likely your ability to handle them may improve. Think of it like trying to quit an addiction. Try and talk yourself into one more day or through the next few hours. Remember it is ok to want to die. Sometimes living sucks more than we can bear, but I would like for you to keep bearing the burden that is life. Maybe it is presumptuous of me to make that request but I am making it nonetheless and the only thing I can offer in return is an anonymous ear and warm thoughts for your safety.

also my twitter handle is @WilloNyx

This seems to be a statistically meaningless issue.

Anyway, people have the right to end their lives at the moment of their choice. Get over it.

By PavePusher (not verified) on 03 Oct 2014 #permalink

PavePusher, one of the largest categories of gun deaths in the US is young people using guns to kill themselves. When these young people attempt suicide but fail, it is typical for them to get help that gets them through that part of their lives and they live. When a young person considers suicide with the various methods that are out there, and choses to use a gun, the suicide usually works. Other methods tend to fail frequently. So the difference is, with guns a death that could very likely have been avoided happens.

So, no, I won't get over it. Do you know who else is not going to get over it? All those people who managed to survive a suicidal period. Do you know who else is not going to get over it? The family and friends of those young folks who killed themselves with a gun. It would be fair for all of those individuals, collectively, to think of you as something of a monster with this attitude you have.

Perhaps you didn't know these facts. Now you do.

"When a young person considers suicide with the various methods that are out there, and choses to use a gun, the suicide usually works."

Or worse, as with a friend of mine years ago, they attempt suicide with a gun and fail.

I can tell you without equivocation, the results of a failed gun suicide are horribly, tragically awful.

By Rob Honeycutt (not verified) on 03 Oct 2014 #permalink

"... one of the largest categories of gun deaths in the US is young people using guns to kill themselves."

Yes, I knew this. But the portion of such suicides done a shooting ranges is statistically insignificant. And if saving lives is your primary concern (instead of your patent anti-gun agenda), you'd be pushing for better mental health care, and firearms safety training in schools, along-side drivers training and sex ed.

Should you remove one method from people, they will simply transfer their efforts to other methods. Otherwise, Japan wouldn't have several times out suicide rate, with almost no civilian firearms ownership, and practically no firearms suicides.

Someone in the comments suggested ending firearms rentals at ranges. This is self-defeating as well. No-one would buy a car without a test-drive. Similarly, trying out firearms prior to purchase is essential. Which means, usually, rental firearms, as the economics of test-guns is slightly different than for test cars. People buying unfamiliar firearms would likely have a higher accidental death rate, however.

Lastly, I'm not a monster, I'm a realist. I don't let emotion cloud my judgment if I can at all avoid it. If that troubles you, and causes you to resort to insults and name-calling, I am not the one with a problem. (For the record, I've had friends and co-workers commit suicide, so I'm not immune to the phenomenon.)

By PavePusher (not verified) on 27 Oct 2014 #permalink

Firearms safety is important, but training in it is limited in reducing suicides. The main part of safety that would impact this is getting those gun nuts with their loaded guns sitting next to their beds on their nightstands, dreaming of an opportunity to kill an intruder, to unload and lock up. Which they won't do.

Comparing Japan to the US is absurd, given that the two cultures have utterly different attitudes about and methods for suicide. The comparison simply isn't valid.

I'm sorry you don't have emotions about the increased rate of killings and mayhem because of firearms being so easy to get, and because firearm "rights" are feithized by so many in our society. There are some of us who are very very pissed off about this. We are not going away. We might, however, take away your guns if you keep being so stupid about this.

I didn't say I have no emotions. I said I don't let them obstruct my ability to reason.

Please don't make things up about me.

And you will not take my guns. You might send minions to try to do so, but your kind will never volunteer to do the deed yourselves.

Ok, you are right. Absolutely right. My minions will be there to take your guns at an unannounced time. Keep an eye out.