Robbery at gun range prompts safety measures

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Robbery at gun range prompts safety measures


A handgun and 19 bullets confiscated from a suspect who ran away with them on Saturday from a live firing range in Busan. [NEWSIS]

The National Police Agency announced Sunday that nine of the country’s 14 live-fire shooting ranges have temporarily been shut down for failing to meet domestic standards on safety devices and vowed that the latest decision will only be the start of efforts to enhance safety at those facilities.

The declaration came just one day after a man in Busan was arrested for running off with a gun from an indoor shooting range.

The agency added in its statement that the country’s 214 shooting ranges will be obligated to have at least two staff members on site and that, rather than filling out a paper registration form, customers must submit their personal identification cards, such as a driver’s license.

Current laws fall short of stipulating that the owner of the shooting range must be present during opening hours and that a customer should not be left alone while operating a firearm. There are no penalties for violating these laws.

All of the aforementioned measures were set to directly resolve the loopholes presented in Saturday’s case, which raised concerns over a possible mass shooting.

Police in Busan arrested the 29-year-old four hours after he stabbed the owner of an indoor shooting range and ran off with a 24-caliber handgun and 19 bullets on Saturday morning.

The suspect, identified only by his surname Hong, never fired the gun and reportedly told authorities Sunday that he was planning to rob a post office near Haeundae Beach.

He added that he planned to use the money to open a new restaurant.

Police said the man was short on cash after his former beauty salon business failed.

Hong said that he had planned the scheme for at least a month, and purchased his knife in September at a market in Haeundae District.

The owner of the indoor shooting range in Busanjin District, a 46-year-old woman surnamed Jeon, was critically injured in the attack and stabbed at least once in the lower abdomen, according to police.

They added that they will investigate whether Jeon abided by domestic gun regulations upon her recovery and file a detention warrant for Hong.

Hong initially sought to execute his plan last Thursday but changed course when he saw two staff members on site rather than one.

The registration form he filled out that day showed that he wrote his real name, and then crossed it out with a ballpoint pen to write a false name.

Jeon was the only person at the shooting range when Hong arrived Saturday around 9:30 a.m.

The name, age and contact information he wrote on the registration form were all false.

Hong was given a 24-caliber handgun and 50 bullets, and moved to one of four lanes, firing only 20 bullets before telling the owner he wanted to stop.

The suspect tried to run away with the gun immediately after Jeon released the weapon from its safety catch, a ringed object that wasn’t locked and could easily be detached.

The man stabbed the owner during their scuffle and fled through the back door, CCTV footage recovered from the scene clearly showed.

Hong then loaded the gun with eight bullets of the 19 he had stolen and changed his clothes in a narrow alley between the shooting range and an adjacent building.

Heavily wounded, Jeon crawled out of the building to seek help and was discovered by a passerby who called the police.

The male employee, who was with Jeon on Friday when the suspect first tried to carry out his plan, was absent when Jeon was stabbed because it was before his working hours.

Hong was on the police’s most wanted list that day on a 10 million won ($8,530) bounty. Officers arrested him in a cab waiting for the traffic lights to change at an intersection.

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