Smith & Wesson shooting range closed - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

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Smith & Wesson shooting range closed

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

The shooting range at Smith & Wesson is closed as the company looks into the complexities of running a public shooting range. This comes after law enforcement officials said four convicted felons wanted for violent crimes did their own training at the range.

A sign on the door of the Page Boulevard shooting range location reads, "Smith & Wesson Shooting Sports Center will remain closed until further notice."

Shooters said it's been closed for about two weeks, first citing inventory purposes for the closure.

Court documents show that in May 2011, 22-year-old Manuel Lora went to the range with some friends and fired several shots. Lora is a convicted felon, and two of his friends are also convicts.

"Massachusetts gun laws are probably the strictest in the country," said Phillip Marcil, general manager of Guns Inc. in West Springfield.

But federal law states that it is illegal to possess a firearm and ammunition by a person convicted of a crime punishable by at least one year in prison.

Federal law didn't stop Lora and the others from using the range. Court documents show they falsely signed liability waivers and certificates saying they'd never been convicted of crimes punishable by a year in prison. All four lied. Documents state Lora used several pistols rented from the range, and months later, police said he shot and killed 25-year-old Jonathon Tallaj in Springfield with a similar weapon he'd fired at the shooting range. Lora has since been charged with Tallaj's murder.

Elizabeth Sharp of Smith & Wesson issued this statement to CBS 3 Springfield:

"In keeping with our long-standing role as a responsible member of our community, we have always operated our shooting sports center in full compliance with all applicable laws, procedures and regulations, with the safety of our customers and our community as our paramount objective. With regard to the specific case you are asking about, note that all members of the public who visit our shooting sports center are required to provide legal identification and must attest that they comply with all state and federal laws regarding the possession and operation of a firearm. This is a procedure that we follow rigorously in the operation of our range. Moreover, we cooperate fully and completely with law enforcement agencies in the event an individual is found to have violated those requirements. 

"We recently made the business decision to temporarily close our Shooting Sports Center while we make changes to better align its purpose with our key business objectives as a firearm manufacturer. This is a decision that we made internally and on our own accord for a number of business-related reasons which include the many complexities of operating a public range, combined with our desire to focus on our manufacturing operation."

Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Lora's friend, 21-year-old Cody Brown, who also shot at Smith & Wesson's Springfield range, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammo by a convicted felon. He's facing up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Brown will be sentenced in August.

The shooting range is expected to remain closed until sometime this summer as Smith & Wesson makes a number of business-related changes.

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