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Big Shots Shooting

LINCOLN, NEB - 04/15/2015 Lincoln Fire and Rescue and Lincoln Police Department personnel respond to a man who was reportedly shot in the head on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, at Big Shots Indoor Range. MATT RYERSON/Lincoln Journal Star

The 22-year-old man who shot himself at an indoor shooting range in Lincoln last week rented the gun from the facility, police said Monday.

Andrew M. Thompson, 22, died Wednesday night after the incident at Big Shots Indoor Range, 399 Sun Valley Blvd., Officer Katie Flood said. His death has been ruled a suicide.

This shooting is one of several at Nebraska ranges in the last 10 years, according to media reports. On the community level, these incidents are shocking, said Amanda Gailey of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence.

"On the national level, it’s not that uncommon," Gailey said, calling these shootings a "national problem."

No national statistics exist on how many suicides have occurred at gun ranges. Last year, the Orange County Register reported there were 64 gun-range suicides at more than 20 gun ranges in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas between 2000 and 2012.

A wave of suicides at ranges in Florida prompted the state's largest independent gun retailer to end its rental program, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The core of the problem, according to Gailey and other gun control advocates, is gun range operators can't run background checks on customers looking to lease, even if they wanted to. Federal law only allows licensed gun dealers access to an instant background check, and like in other states, renting customers in Nebraska don't need to have a firearm purchase permit -- certification that includes the passage of a background check and is required for most gun sales.

At Big Shots, it's preferred, but not required, that renters have a concealed carry permit or firearm purchase permit, according to its website.

When asked if the range planned to change its rental policy like the Florida range did, James Clark said he hadn't made a decision.

Clark, along with his wife and range co-owner, Teresa Clark, declined to answer further questions about the incident.

In a statement, they said, "It is a terrible tragedy when someone does not get the help that they need to prevent them from taking their own life.

"We are extremely sad that they chose to take this path and our thoughts and prayers are with them and the family they left behind that must now deal with this tragic event."

Thompson, born in Cleveland, Ohio, was a Lincoln High School graduate and had recently enrolled in a computer program at Southeast Community College.

He had a "wicked, very dry" sense of humor but was a gentle soul who loved his dogs, his mother Carol Thompson said Monday night. 

Guns were not a big part of his life, she said.

Though she declined to discuss his mental health, Thompson said she would support background checks on gun rentals at ranges.

"I think that would be a good change," she said.

Requiring background checks on range rentals would reduce, but not eliminate, these shocking but not uncommon suicides, Gailey said.

She acknowledged that some mental-health issue indicators don't always show up in background checks.

"Work-around" policies at gun ranges, such as requiring renting customers to be accompanied by another person, are a respectable start, Gailey said.

State lawmakers could address this issue, she said, but the solution ultimately depends on Congress.

"What we really need," she said, "is a serious strengthening of gun legislation on a national level."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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