Gun range will receive safety fixes

Up to $2 million to be spent on police facility

`100 percent containment'

Modifications to include adding roof, side walls

June 22, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The state has decided to spend up to $2 million to fix the rifle range at its new law enforcement training center in Sykesville by adding a roof and side walls to keep errant shots and ricochets from endangering people at a nearby hospital and a driver-training track.

Questions about design safety at the rifle range were first raised by Shannon Bohrer, who was hired to run the firearms training center in April 1999, well after construction had begun. Modifications to the range became necessary after he and various law enforcement officers raised concerns about its safety last month.

Plans call for overhead steel plates covered with a fibrous baffling material to be installed at downward angles over the rifle range, much like a roof, which will deflect bullets downward, said Dave Humphrey, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of General Services (DGS).

Angled side walls will be connected with 12-foot wooden walls, all covered in the same baffling material, to ensure no bullets escape, he said.

Work at the range, which measures 12 yards by 200 yards, should be done by spring, Humphrey said, and could cost as little as $1.3 million.

After the modifications are completed, a perimeter fence will be installed, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Humphrey restated the goal of everyone involved in planning and constructing the firearms range, which is to have "100 percent containment, 100 percent of the time."

"What has changed is how that desire or goal will be achieved," Humphrey said.

A rifle range with an elevated firing line next to the larger, longer range will also be modified, said Humphrey.

Known as the tower range, because shooters climb two stories and shoot downward, it will get a steel visor and the same kind of rooflike structure and walls will be added, as at the larger rifle range.

Two range targets at 40 yards and 50 yards will be eliminated from that rifle range, he said.

Closed for modifications

Until modifications are made and all safety concerns are resolved, the rifle and tower ranges, part of the $4.6 million police firearms training center near Springfield Hospital Center, will remain closed, said Humphrey.

If the rifle and tower ranges were used as originally designed and built, police officers at the nearby driver training facility and people and buildings at the psychiatric hospital a half-mile away would be at risk, law enforcement officials said.

DGS has overseen the design and construction of the police firearms training facility with input from other state agencies, including police and correctional training commissions, state police firearms experts and the public safety department.

In addition to the rifle ranges, the center includes four pistol ranges, a pop-up target range and an administrative building with classrooms and electronic video simulators used for shoot/don't-shoot training that will eventually be completed by more than 25,000 law enforcement officers across Maryland.

Part of 700-acre facility

The firearms facility, off Raincliffe Road in Sykesville, is part of Maryland's $47.6 million law enforcement training center on 700 acres at the hospital center in Carroll County.

The police driver training center was completed in 1998 and the firearms center was substantially completed May 8, except for the rifle and tower ranges.

Open house Saturday

To acquaint members of the community with what will happen at the ranges when firing begins, the Police and Correctional Training Commissions will hold an open house at the firearms training center at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sipes said.

Because eye and ear safety equipment must be worn by anyone near the range, Sipes said shooting with live ammunition likely would not be demonstrated at the pistol ranges Saturday.

"We will have indoor demonstrations of the shoot/don't-shoot video simulators," Sipes said. "And, because ammunition used at the outdoor pop-up target range is akin to paint-ball ammunition, we may be able to have demonstrations outdoors as well."

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