Amidst the madness of the pandemic, you will find an oasis of sanity at the local shooting range. Say what? At the shooting range? 

If you took a drive through Narragansett this past weekend, you were greeted by fluorescent, no parking signs and blocked off beach lots, at virtually every possible public entry to the ocean. But only a few miles inland, at the Peacedale Shooting Preserve, there was plenty of safe, outdoor and indoor activity. Standing 6 feet apart at the stations, small groups of gun enthusiasts took turns blasting away at sporting clays, as they catapulted into the air. One hunter would release the clays on the command of the shooter, and he would try to hit them as they flew across the sky.

There was plenty of room to shoot, and the stations were spread out far enough that you could not even see the group in front of you from any direction. 

As part of the same complex, the Elite Indoor Shooting Range was also busy, as shooters stood 6 feet apart at separate stations, hitting paper targets with an arsenal of handguns. Everyone was enjoying themselves and social distancing rules were being upheld. Welcome to the new world of pandemic sports.

Narragansett’s Mike Salvadore, an NRA Certified Shotgun and Pistol Instructor, is a longtime member of a number of shooting clubs and is a member here at Elite. He said that shooting is a great stress reliever. As one of the country’s top auctioneers and a national machinery and equipment appraiser, Mike is often on the road. Dealing with the big auctions and appraisals can sometimes be nerve racking. He finds it very relaxing during down time, to take a trip to the club. “Range time is always a good time to decompress, keep your skills sharp, and spend some time with friends,” said Mike.

Narragansett’s Mike Salvadore is a longtime member of the shooting club here, and says it is a great stress reliever. As one of Rhode Island’s top auctioneers, Mike is often on the road, dealing with big auctions that can sometimes be nerve racking. He finds it very relaxing to take a trip to the club during down time, with an array of shotguns and pistols.

Amidst the turmoil of Rhode Island business shut-downs, gun stores, liquor stores, and marijuana centers are considered essential and critical retail business operations, allowed to stay open. Along with golf courses, gun ranges are also allowed to remain open, as long as social distancing is practiced. “We are doing our best to make sound judgements,’’ said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, in regard to the Governor’s decision to close many retail stores and keep others open. 

The bottom line is that as Americans under the law, we can have provisions for self-defense, and be able to defend ourselves in times of uncertainty. The second amendment to the Constitution states “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” End of discussion.

Sven Soderberg, Elite Guns Store manager, is part owner of the range and retail operation. He gave me some great insight into Governor Raimondo’s decision. “It is a common misconception that anyone can buy a gun on the internet. The state of Rhode Island has many rules and regulations that must be upheld in order to buy a gun. You must go through a police department background check, and be cleared by the NICS, which is an agency of the ATF. There are multiple types of firearms banned by the State of Rhode Island, including Class 3 machine guns.”

It is not that easy to legally buy a firearm in this state. In order to buy a handgun, you must be over 21 years old, have a state ID, complete a purchase of a pistol or revolver application form, and then study for a “Blue Card.” This requires that you complete a hunter safety course and a pistol safety course taught by the DEM. Then you must pass the test. Once you pass the Blue Card test and receive your Blue Card, you then cay buy the firearm. 

It is easier to buy a shotgun than a handgun in Rhode Island. You only need to be 18 years or older, have a valid state ID, and complete a purchase of a shotgun or rifle application form. No safety course or test is required.

Sven said that gun and ammo business has increased over 50% across the state, since the pandemic began. “70% of firearm sales have been to first time buyers,” said Sven. “We have had more Blue Card testing in the past 30 days, than in the past 6 months.” One of the Elite Gun Store’s specialties is gun training and courses to the public. His experienced staff of gun experts include ex-military National Guard, and police officers. “We are open 7 days, offering private one-on-one instruction with the emphasis on safety.”

Buying any type of gun can be a complex purchase, said Sven. “We have 60 rental firearms at our range, and we encourage first time buyers to test out as many as they can. The gun must be comfortable for the individual owner, or they will not have a good experience with the weapon.”

It is time to get creative in this new world of pandemic sports. Let’s reload, shoot straight, and have some fun.

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