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Hoping to avoid suicide epidemic, Florida company to end gun rentals

A chain of gun-shops that has built gun ranges across central Florida has announced it will no longer rent out guns in order to stop a string of suicides that occurred when customers borrowed weapons and used them to take their own lives.

Shoot Straight, the largest independently owned chain of gun  stores in the state, announced on Friday that the company would  end its policy. Khaled Akkawi, the store’s founder, said the  economic impact on his business would be “significant”   but felt he had no choice to make the decision, which he did last  month.

We’ve had enough,” Akkawi told the Orlando Sentinel.   “They’ve been increasing real fast and the one common  denominator – everyone is done with a rental gun.”

Suicides committed with rented firearms are not tracked by any  agency, although Sentinel research found that at least 11  occurred in the Orlando region since 2009. The problem is serious  and common enough that Shoot Straight is not the only chain to  amend its gun rental policy.

One customer visited Oak Ridge Gun Range on January 2nd and told  employees he was waiting for his sons to arrive. When they failed  to arrive after 20 minutes, he asked to go out to the firing  range while he waited, where he turned the gun on himself.

That won’t happen again,” said Oak Ridge owner John  Harvey. “We don’t rent to any white male Florida resident who  comes in alone. In the past 30 years, we’ve never has a suicide  that wasn’t a white male Florida resident who came in alone. They  don’t want to mess up their families’ homes, so they do it  here.”

Store owners complained that confidentiality laws prevent them  from having access to a customers’ mental health history and  Florida law prohibits criminal background checks being conducted  on potential renters, which would help businesses screen for  convicted felons and potential threats.

The first store to ban gun rentals was Gander Mountain Academy,  doing so in part to prevent expensive costs that come with a  suicide – including lost business, distress payments for  employees and customers, and the charges that come with reopening  again.

Renters general pay $50 for an hour of time on the range with a  rented gun and ammunition, range owners told the Sentinel. Many  stores rely on this income to make money ,as an estimated 20  percent of customers are already gun owners who simply hope to   “test drive” new guns they are considering purchasing.

I would say that about 90 percent of first-time gun buyers  take advantage of the opportunity to rent a gun or two before  making a purchase,” Orlando Gun Clob owner Jon Kirson said.   “I’m a risk averse person and I run by business accordingly.  We probably lose some business but…safety takes priority.”


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