Archive for Monday, January 14, 2008

Community Building houses firing range

January 14, 2008


Where to go

People interested in using the firing range operated by the Douglas County Rifle/Pistol Club should go to its Web site, It contains forms that must be filled out before attending the mandatory orientation session. Those sessions begin at 6:45 p.m. Wednesdays at the Lawrence Community Building, 11th and Vermont streets.

George Pisani leans against an old cafeteria-style table, stacked full of magazines like Gun Tests, Field & Stream and Shotgun News.

A story is flowing among a group of guys about shooting wild boar at Clinton Lake. The quandary is whether a 9 millimeter will be a big enough weapon to handle the task at hand. No guarantees that it will is the general consensus.

The conversation is punctuated by the sharp snap of a semi-automatic handgun report. Then a few moments later by the much older-fashioned sound of a worn steel cable on an equally aged pulley. Powered by a hand crank, the cable draws closer a black-and-white target, attached via rebar and battered clothespins.

Yeah, this is the part of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department's Community Building that not everyone sees. It is the indoor shooting range in the basement of the early 20th century edifice at 11th and Vermont streets.

"It's the only room down there with a red door," the receptionist explains when asked for directions.


The shooting range has been in the building long before it became a center for pick-up basketball games, dance classes and other Parks and Recreation programs. Originally, the old brick building was an armory, said Tim Laurent, facility operations supervisor for Parks and Recreation.

The city department, however, doesn't use the firing range. Instead, it allows the Douglas County Rifle/Pistol Club to use the range four times per week, as long as the club maintains high safety standards, proper insurance and allows members of the general public to shoot as well.

"It's an arrangement that works fine for us," Laurent said. "They seem to be very responsible. I have worked here for 15 years, and have not had one problem with the range."

Users are appreciative too. The range is the only one in the city that is open to the public. Stephen Dickey said he thought the city was providing a valuable service by allowing it to remain.

"If people know how to safely handle a weapon and shoot well, there will be fewer accidents with weapons," Dickey said.


Pisani, the club's secretary and safety officer, points at the range's high-tech registration system. An empty fish bowl and a worn spiral notebook sit on a table. Nonmembers sign the book and place $2 in the bowl.

"Try to have exact change. We had a guy with a $100 bill and the laughter followed him all the way back down the hallway," Pisani told a group of newbies going through the required orientation session. Pisani is a transplanted New Yorker who has been shooting at the range since about 1980. The session happens each Wednesday evening.

On this evening, there are a half-dozen shooters who are new to the range. Most are there for the same reason that keeps Pisani coming back.

"It's a good sport," Pisani said. "You don't have to be 6'8" and weigh 300 pounds to succeed at it."

Instead, he said it is a sport that values concentration, control and an ordered mind.

"Shooting is sort of like learning to drive a stick shift on a steep hill," Pisani said. "To do it well, there are several things you have to do simultaneously."


Not much has changed with the range since the state began issuing concealed carry permits to its residents in January 2007. Pisani said participation hasn't grown much, and the club's membership holds steady at about 60.

That's not to say things shouldn't have changed. Pisani - who is a concealed carry instructor - said if people are going to carry around a loaded weapon, they need a place like this range to stay proficient.

"It's part of their responsibility," Pisani said.

Taking the eight-hour, state mandated concealed carry class isn't enough, he said. Not nearly enough.

"That class teaches you some of the basic legal stuff you need to know, and it teaches you which end is the loud end," Pisani said.


Don Cole admits it has been a long time since he had fired a handgun. He's more of a rifle man.

"I can't even see to the end down there," he said with a laugh as he looked out over the 50-foot firing range.

But he does. He stands at one of the five booths - shooters benches made of old timber separated by unceremonious peg board. A 9 mm semi-automatic is in his hand. His grown son, Dean Cole, watches. He explains that the gun is for his brother, who will be taking a hunting trip to Texas. Dean and Don thought he needed a sidearm to take in addition to his rifle. They're testing it before they turn it over.

At least that was the excuse.

"Really, this is just about spending time with Dad. Seeing if I can hit the target more than he can," Dean said. "Looks like he's catching up."

Afterward, Don dispenses with the excuse all together.

"It's being together," Don said. "Used to take him out hunting when he was a boy. It's just a good guys' night out."

Pisani asked the father how he did tonight.

"Could have done better with rocks," Don said.

Pisani laughs. He's already told everyone that this place isn't about who can shoot the best.

"That's all right," Pisani said. "Rocks can work too."

More laughter, which is a noise that often competes with the gunshots. Pisani prepares to sweep up the spent brass cartridges on the floor. Another night at the range is done. Don's last words to those left in the range are "see you later."

As he walks out with his son, you get the feeling that he means it.


Tyson Travis 10 years, 5 months ago

Concealed carry isn't a factor here, as long as your weapon is unloaded, and not concealed on your body. It's legal to transport an unloaded weapon, otherwise how would you get it home from the dealer where you bought it, or take it to a gunsmith for servicing? A paper sack is kind of low-tech, most of these folks will have their firearm in a case. Just be sure the weapon is unloaded, the ammo is in a separate container, and it would probably be a good idea to carry it in the trunk so there's no access from the vehicle enroute. If you're ever stopped by law enforcement, just inform the officer you're transporting an unloaded firearm in the trunk, and are going to a legit. firing range. Shouldn't be a problem.

Mumzie 10 years, 5 months ago

My son and I (he's almost 10) shoot together as a sport activity. It's a great activity for us to do together and the one sport I can participate with him in (football's out). We have always gone to the family farm to target practice but it's 200 miles away. It's great to know there is a local firing range open to the public. Would he be allowed to shoot with me at the firing range considering his age? Do you have orientation meetings specifically geared for women and/or parents with kids etc?

Fourdcs 10 years, 5 months ago

Age limit is 12 - tho I don't agree with it. Early training of gun safety is important. You might ask. Link:

Mumzie 10 years, 5 months ago


Thank you for the information. I'll check out the website.

ClaroAtaxia 9 years, 3 months ago

I didn't see anywhere in the article that it mentioned caliber restrictions for the indoor range. Most indoor ranges limit it to pistol/rimfire calibers. Why would an article not mention the range's policies?

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