We can sympathize with the fright that homeowners in the general vicinity of the Maidstone Gun Club feel at the occasional report of a bullet striking a house. However, there has yet to be any conclusive evidence that people shooting firearms at the club near the East Hampton Town Airport are responsible. Instead, club members say, rogue shooters in the woods are the most likely culprits. But the question remains and is at the heart of a lawsuit that could shut the members-only site for good. A state judge ordered the club temporarily closed on Dec. 2 in response to the neighbors’ suit.
Members say that every precaution is taken to avoid stray bullets. Rifle shooting is confined to long, concrete tubes pointed only at a tall, earthen berm. There is an indoor pistol range in the clubhouse basement. The club said it hired a lead-reclamation company to help keep potential contamination out of groundwater.
One of the wrinkles in the gun club matter is that it is on around 97 acres of town-owned land. As such, it is one of a very few private sporting organizations to have exclusive use of public property here. However, in exchange, the police and Coast Guard are given access without charge for training. The alternative for law enforcement is to travel UpIsland to other gun ranges.
The sad truth is that police and other law enforcement officers daily face a population armed to the teeth. Adequate preparation for potentially fatal encounters is an absolute must, even here, and there is no substitute for practice with an actual firearm. Video simulations simply do not measure up.
Accidental injury and death from guns is disturbingly common. Just last week, a woman in Florida was shot and wounded after her granddaughter got hold of a pistol that had been left in the driver’s seat back pocket. A Staten Island teenager died the week before after being shot by his older brother in what police said was an accident. In a 2020 study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University estimated that about 330 people a day in the U.S. suffered nonfatal firearm injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control says that suicide is the second-most common cause of death among children from 10 to 14 and third-most among Americans ages 15 to 24, many of which involved the use of a firearm. The serious culture of safety promoted by gun clubs can help keep weapons out of the hands of at-risk individuals. Even a single life saved or injury avoided is worth it.
For ordinary gun owners, the safety protocols stressed at the Maidstone Gun Club and places like it are also in the public interest. In fact, it might make sense for the club to expand its public education mission.
Unfortunately, there are more guns than people in the United States and they are not going away any time soon. The more Americans who are skilled in their proper handling, care, and storage the better.