EDMONTON - The owner of a firearms range at West Edmonton Mall is full of praise for two of her employees who may have prevented a customer from killing himself with a rented pistol.
Flora Kupsch said when a man pointed a Glock 9-mm gun at himself Tuesday night after firing more than 40 rounds at a target, her staff stepped in and there was a scuffle.
Police say the man suffered a gunshot wound to the neck and was in stable condition in hospital.
"I am very, very proud of them the way they reacted," Kupsch said Wednesday. "Everybody is shaken up about what happened. I was just freaking out about the whole thing."
The Wild West Shooting Centre has been operating for 13 years at the mall and bills itself as "Edmonton's Funnest Attraction." Customers rent pistols and ammunition and paper targets to shoot at.
Ads for the centre say that no firearms licence is required. Wild West says it prides itself on following strict safety protocols and employs friendly, experienced staff.
However, two men have died as a result of self-inflicted gunshot wounds in the past — one in 2007 and another in 2008.
Kupsch said a man in his 50s came into the centre Tuesday night saying he had never fired a gun before.
He then paid the fee to rent the Glock — the type of pistol used by many police services across Canada — and 50 rounds of ammunition, but then left the centre briefly to have a cup of coffee before taking the gun.
When he returned, he took the pistol and the ammunition to the firing line and began squeezing off rounds under the watchful eye of a range officer.
She said her staff are trained to closely watch the customers to ensure that the muzzles of their rented weapons are pointed down-range at all times.
When the customer began pointing the weapon at himself, the range officer stepped in and called on another staff member for support.
"He was attempting to point the gun at himself," she said.
"We watch the barrel, we don't watch you shooting. We watch the barrel where it is pointing. When the muzzle breaks the line, we will slap your hand."
Kupsch said one of the employees involved in the scuffle has military experience and the man who helped him also works as a security guard. She would only identify them as Dennis and Terry.
Lisa Sobchyshyn, an Edmonton Police Service spokeswoman, said it's too early to say if the man with the Glock was trying to take his own life.
She said the shooting range employees are being treated like heroes.
"They thought that his behaviour was out of sorts, trusted their intuition, and sort of leapt into action," she said. "They played a valuable role in preventing this from becoming a tragedy."
Kupsch said police have told her the wounded man, who hasn't been identified, could face criminal charges.
The shooting centre was open for business Wednesday.