Texas Gun Range to Host Birthday Parties for Children

The Eagle Gun Range will allow children as young as eight years to shoot guns.

ByABC News
June 8, 2012, 12:14 PM

June 8, 2012 — -- Instead of bowling alley or laser tag birthdays, Texas parents will soon be able to host parties at a less traditional venue, a family-friendly gun range set to open this summer.

The range will have two rooms for children's birthday parties so the young partygoers can attend a class and then fire a few rounds before cake and presents.

"A lot of people don't know how to shoot a gun so we're providing education and training for shooters of all ages," range owner David Prince told ABCNews.com. "They have birthday parties with go-karts and trampolines -- with proper education before going into a gun range, why not a birthday party?"

The Eagle Gun Range in Lewisville will be a 24-lane facility targeted toward both avid and novice shooters. Children eight years and older, who are tall enough to shoot over the shooting table, will be able to fire at the range. According to Texas guns laws, parents or guardians must give written permission for children under 18 to possess or fire a weapon.

"They'll be in the classroom, walk into the range, shoot, go back to the classroom, and have cake and ice cream," Prince said. "There's no pinata. It's not festive like that. There are safety glasses, ear protection, and that's the only time they test the gun."

Prince said that both parents and children will attend a safety class taught by a National Rifle Association (NRA) certified instructor before going anywhere near a gun.

"A parent or guardian or NRA instructor will all be in arm's range," he said. "There's no child that will be walking around with a gun at a birthday party."

The young children will be shooting BB guns and .22 pistols and can move up from there as they get older.

"We're reaching out and trying to educate people so they understand there is a responsibility that goes with the right and privilege to bear arms," said Prince, 62. "It's a responsibility to learn how to do it effectively and safely."

"It's been 30 years since a gun range was built in Dallas," he added. "There's huge demand and little supply so I reached out to meet the supply. This is all parent-driven. We're not going out pulling kids off the street. Parents are coming in and want this for their children."

Prince said he has received hundreds of emails from supportive parents who want to bring their children and said he does not know of any other range that offers similar training and education for children.

But some parents are already expressing concern over the new party spot.

"It makes me very nervous," Dawn McMullan told ABC News' Dallas affiliate WFAA. "I think eight-year-olds, developmentally, can't tell the difference between play and reality sometimes."

McMullan is an East Dallas mother of two boys who has been involved in gun control advocacy.

"To put it in a party or game atmosphere just seems to not respect a gun as much as we should respect guns," she told WFAA.

The Eagle Gun Range has found itself at the center of a national debate over gun rights, discussions about how young is too young and even a source of material for comedians.

On "Jimmy Kimmel Live," the comedian joked, "The range says kids, for them to be able to shoot, they have to be eight years old and need to be tall enough to see over the shooting table, but other than that, the only rule is no shooting in the bouncy house."

Kimmel also shot a spoof video where a Chuck E. Cheese's became a Chuck E. Norris and children ate cake off of guns and took aim at each other.

Prince said the range is "thankful and blessed" for the attention and he enjoyed Kimmel's skit.

"We thought it was hilarious," Prince said of the sketch. "I don't care for him as a comedian, but that particular skit was funny."

Prince maintains that what he is doing at the range is no different from the Boy Scouts' being trained in rifle shooting or children playing video games with guns.

"[Kids] have been aiming and shooting guns forever with video games. Why not use a real gun and let them know what the differences are? It's not a toy. They need to know that. How are they going to know that if we don't tell them and show them?"

The gun range is scheduled to open later this summer.