New rifle, new rules: Strict safety that comes with buying a semi-automatic rifle in West Michigan

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WYOMING, Mich. – Driving northbound US-131 near 28 Street, you will see five ads circulating on a billboard for a Wyoming gun range, but one of them may shock you.

On it, Silver Bullet Firearms advertises they are the only West Michigan dealer for a Kalashnikov, a semi-automatic sporting rifle now made the in the U.S.

With an import ban, Kalashnikovs are now made in the U.S., and being sold in only a few locations. Silver Bullet managers told FOX 17 the only reason the gun is showcased on their billboard, is because they are one of those few locations selling them.

After experiencing two tragic shooting suicides at their own facility, including the most recent incident in 2012, they have added more protections around who can get access.

“This is called an AK -47 but this is a high end version,” said Rick Bruner, Silver Bullet Firearms manager. “It’s very well-made, very safe, and again we’re going to offer classes for people that are interested in this; works a little different than the AR people are used to.”

Bruner said their Kalashnikov model costs around $800, and is used for competitions, hunting, and target shooting.

But in order to shoot anything at their range, you go through multiple safety nets.

“We really believe that people need to be able to safely be able to handle the guns and handle the pistols, rifles, shotguns that they do purchase here,” said Bruner. “We’re constantly trying to promote people to come in, take our classes, and we are very successful in that.”

Mangers with Silver Bullet explained that safety education is their priority, which is evident from their five ads along US-131: one showcases the Kalashnikov, while others feature gun classes, and warranties. Another ad showing an AR-15 also has their slogan, “rights with responsibility.”

Inside the facility, customers are expected to fill out a range form and take a written test.

“They have to fill out a range form, and that asks some very pertinent questions: have you ever been convicted of a felony?” said Bruner. “Do you use illegal substances and things like that? We’re not going to allow people to go out on our range unless they’re safe.”

The range has had two tragic suicides. Since the last one in 2012, they have added the written test, more background questions, and require an experienced supervisor with each shooter in order for them to test any of the guns they offer.

“We’ve had enough experience, I’ve been here nine years,” said Bruner. “You can usually tell that somebody’s not being honest with you. We’re allowed, by the management, to say no we’re not going to allow you to do that.”

Silver Bullet Firearms is a federally licensed facility. Although a background check is not required before renting a gun, they do follow strict guidelines: for instance no medical marijuana card holder is allowed inside.

They say part of their mission is educating the younger generations in safe gun practice.

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