The Turkey Shoot at the Shirley Rod and Gun Club is not what you might expect.
First, the club buys some frozen turkeys at the supermarket. Then there are target-shooting competitions for hunting rifles, shotguns, and pistols. The winners take home the frozen birds. Last year, the club gave away about 300 of them.
Still, the club’s Thanksgiving tradition, its largest fund-raiser of the year, has been around for as long as anyone can remember. But this year’s Turkey Shoot might not happen if new regulations for gun clubs are adopted.
The change is being proposed by Governor Deval Patrick’s administration in the wake of a tragic accident last fall, when an 8-year-old boy died after shooting himself with a machine gun during a “pumpkin shoot’’ at a Westfield gun club.
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If adopted, the regulations would prohibit machine guns at all public sporting club events, and require clubs to obtain special licenses, hire a police detail, and have one certified firearms safety instructor for every 20 people in attendance (or one for every five attendees if children are present) at all public events. The regulations would also require clubs to submit a safety plan to their local police department 30 days before each event.
A state official said the regulations are aimed at improving gun safety and are long overdue. And a gun-control advocate doubts they would lead to the demise of events like the Turkey Shoot.
But local gun club members have expressed outrage over the proposals, saying they would make it financially impossible to continue such traditional events.
“That tradition is going to go away because the public is invited to this event,’’ said Jim Finnerty, the Shirley Rod and Gun Club’s only certified firearms safety instructor. Based on the number of people (including children) who turn out for the Turkey Shoot, the club would need to have as many as 60 safety instructors, plus a police detail costing more than $40 per hour, to meet the regulations, he said.
“For a small club like Shirley, it’s tough. It’s not like we have extra money to get police details,’’ Finnerty said.
At the Ayer Gun and Sportsmen’s Club, its annual Military Demonstration Day featuring World War II machine guns, which is scheduled to take place at the end this month, may also cease to exist, said the club’s assistant range officer, Dan Damato. At the club’s event, held to honor veterans, only one person is allowed to shoot the machine gun, while everyone else stands behind, Damato said. But if machine guns are banned from all firearms exhibitions, the tradition will end.
“I think the regulations are unnecessary and they will essentially close down the small clubs,’’ Damato said.
In Hudson, Boy Scout camps, where youths between the ages of 12 and 15 learn to shoot guns at the Riverside Gun Club, will most likely end, said club member Andy Massa. “If the regulations pass, then their activities will become firearms exhibitions and we can’t have them,’’ he said.
The logistics of submitting a safety plan to police 30 days in advance will make it too difficult, he said. Read more