Construction on Cullman County’s first public firing range is underway with officials hoping to open the facility for residents to use for target practice in coming months.
The pistol and rifle range is a joint project between the county and the sheriff’s office. County Road Department crews have been busy clearing trees and creating tall dirt berms at the site off County Road 122 at the old county landfill. Once the site prep is finished, the sheriff’s office will begin putting up pavilions and shooting tables on concrete pads for both ranges.
“We started working in February, and we were fortunate that the tornado (April 27, 2011) took down some trees through here,” said Cullman County Associate Commissioner (West Side) Stanley Yarbrough Wednesday. “It’s been a lot of dirt work, hundreds and hundreds of tons of dirt, but we’ve been able to use everything right here on site.”
The pistol range will be 25 yards and the separate rifle range will be 100 yards, said Sheriff Mike Rainey. The firing range has been a project Rainey has wanted provide residents since he took office in 2011. One of the closest public firing ranges locally is 40-plus miles at Swan Creek in Limestone County.
“We want to make this a safe, controlled environment for people to come out and use,” Rainey said. “We’re looking at what policies other ranges have, as far as should the person have a permit, pass a background check and maybe take a safety course first. We’re looking at the range down in Etowah, what they’re doing.”
Rainey mentioned the tragic incident last month in White Hills, Ariz., when a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed an instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca, while firing an Uzi submachine gun at a shooting range.
“We want to teach children the dangers of guns, and do it safely. Kids handling automatic rifles.... we don’t want something like that terrible tragedy happening here,” Rainey said.
The sheriff’s office also plans to utilize the range for the mandatory training of its deputies. Rainey said he would like the county to offer training classes for the public in the future as well.
“It will be free to the public, and we want people to come out and bring their families to use it,” Yarbrough said. “It’s county property, let’s use it to benefit residents. We hope that the next administration will take the project on and keep it going.”