Looking out for rule violators http://www.pottstownmercury.com/articles/2008/11/28/news/doc4930d50614bd0324209124.txt Saturday, November 29, 2008 12:37 AM EST By Jennifer Miller, Special to The Mercury WARWICK — He looks on with binoculars to get a closer view of the gunmen. He listens to the number of shots fired. He watches how they handle the rifles and handguns, searching for violations. Later, he moves closer to the range, in plain view of the gunmen who are shooting at the public rifle range nestled in state game lands No. 43, which consists of three parcels totaling roughly 2,300 acres. Earlier on that Friday afternoon in October, he observed a man fire at least 10 rounds from a handgun. At the range, the posted regulations state no more than three rounds can be fired at a time. A man next to him appears to explain the rules to the shooter. The violator glances at the posted regulations before approaching Scott Frederick, one of Chester County's two Game Commission wildlife conservation officers. The man explains to Frederick it's his first time to the range and thus he is unfamiliar with the rules. "My apologies," he says. Frederick explains ignorance is not an excuse, considering the rules are clearly posted in multiple locations. "Consider this your official warning," Frederick tells him. Such violations, Frederick said, are common at the public rifle range. Other violations he's used to seeing include unsafe handling of firearms or sportsmen shooting when the range is closed. "We've been having a tremendous amount of problems there with people not abiding by laws and regulations," Frederick said. Between 2000 and 2007, officers cited 32 people for using a firearm during closed hours, 11 people for discharging a firearm while not on the firing line and 59 people for possession or discharging a firearm with more than three rounds, according to the Game Commission. The Game Commission only allows rifles, shotguns (with single projectile ammunition) and handguns at the range. Automatic weapons, even if the owner has the required federal license, are prohibited. Everyone shoots at their own risk. When Frederick cites a range shooter, the violator faces a fine of $75 to $200. The amount is decided by a district judge. The Warwick range reopened in September after closing in June for lead abatement. The shotgun range next door, which closed at the same time, will not reopen. When it was available to the public, Frederick said, shooters would bring in prohibited targets, such as mannequins and a slew of old appliances. "They would blow apart things like TVs, VCRs, computer screens and baby dolls," Frederick said. Another appalling violation, Frederick said, occurred while the ranges were closed. Some gunmen decided to set up their own range on the game lands. Using a civilian version of a military assault rifle, which can shoot four to five miles, the shooters carved holes into their target: a tree trunk. Not far away, on the other side of the woods, there are houses. "Any misses and those bullets could have gone anywhere," Frederick said.