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Man kills himself at Myeong-dong firing range

Sept 18,2018
A man committed suicide on Sunday after wrestling control of a handgun at a shooting range in one of Seoul’s liveliest tourist districts.

According to the Seoul Namdaemun Police Precinct, a 36-year-old man surnamed Hong shot himself in the neck at an indoor shooting range on the third floor of a building in Myeong-dong, central Seoul.

Surveillance footage at the building shows Hong using an electroshock stun gun to stun an employee who entered the firing range with him, in accordance to safety procedures. He then pulled the handgun loose from the safety chain on the wall and turned the weapon on himself as the employee called for help, police said.

The shooting range’s owner and another employee, who were in a separate room, were unable to stop Hong from taking his own life. He was dead by the time paramedics arrived on the scene.

Hong, who worked as a film production assistant, was stopped by employees for climbing onto a table before the incident, according to firing range staff. Police said he was not intoxicated and showed no other signs of erratic behavior. He also left no will or note.

Handguns at the shooting range are chained to the wall and only face forward, and have a locking mechanism on their triggers to prevent accidental discharge.

The shooting range followed all safety protocols, such as checking customers’ identification. No problems were found when it received a regular safety inspection on Sept. 4, according to a police spokesman.

The building’s security guard said that most of the customers who visit the firing range are foreigners, but police academy applicants also occasionally use the facility to practice their shooting.

The shooting range is soundproofed and gunfire cannot be heard outside the building, he added.

Police declined to provide further details on Hong’s suicide, but a spokesman said an investigation will be conducted and measures will be prepared to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.

Analysts say the incident exposes a blind spot in law enforcement oversight of firing ranges that use live ammunition. Current shooting range regulations mandate a maximum punishment of a year in prison or a fine of three million won ($2,600) for violating safety standards, but only three cases have been reported in the past eight years.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK, LEE TAE-YUN [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]