That is one of the basic commandments of gun safety from the National Rifle Association, which ends with the postscript of “Think first. Shoot second.”
Two west Ada County men didn’t follow that rule Saturday afternoon when they mistakenly fired numerous handgun rounds into the parking lot of Firebird Raceway.
The bullets just missed people standing in the parking lot and hit at least two trucks, causing people to scramble for safety. Several bullets whizzed by an Ada County Sheriff’s Deputy, who had to take cover behind a nearby car.
Deputies eventually cited Peter Clark, 41, of Eagle and Timothy Carroll, 32, of Star for reckless discharge of firearms, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Deputies were first called to Firebird Raceway just before 4:30 p.m. Saturday to investigate a report of someone shooting into the parking lot.
When the first deputy arrived, he got out of his car and almost immediately heard bullets in the air near where he was, coming from the west.
People in the parking lot began to take cover. The deputy told Firebird officials to instruct everyone at the racetrack (about 150 people) to seek shelter. He then took cover behind a car and called for assistance.
The deputy counted about 50 rounds fired before the shooting stopped.
Just around the time the other officers arrived, the deputy saw a silver pickup truck leaving the area where the bullets were coming from. Deputies stopped the truck and Clark and Carroll got out.
They did not know why they were being stopped. When deputies told them what was going on, the men said they were shooting pistols in the area.
The men were using .45 caliber “wad-cutter” bullets, which matched four bullets found in the parking lot, including one from the bed of a truck. When showed the bullets, one of the men apologized.
The men were cited and released. Deputies confiscated the three .45 caliber handguns the men had been shooting for ballistic tests.
Deputies are still investigating the case. They later heard from a woman who said she was in a car at the raceway when her car was hit by a bullet. Another said she was standing next to her truck when a bullet hit the hood, only a few feet from where she was standing.
The men were shooting on Bureau of Land Management land near the racetrack. While it is legal to shoot there, they put the public in danger, which is illegal.
Ada County code defines reckless discharge of firearms as “conduct which shows willful and wanton disregard for safety or property of others which may cause bodily injury or death to persons or domestic animals, or damage to the property of others.”
While the area has been popular for shooting in years past, there are now more homes nearby and an increase in other kinds of recreation in the area, like hiking.
We are asking anyone who plans to shoot on public land to be very cautious and pay close attention to their surroundings.