Targeting a need: Camden unveils firing range

110918 Gunrange
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Both current and former Camden officials gather to cut the ribbon on the Camden Sheriff’s Office new firing range off Trotman Road in Shiloh, Thursday. On hand for the event were (l-r) Commissioner Tom White, Commissioner Randy Kraniak, Commissioner Clayton Riggs, former Sheriff Tony Perry, Commissioner Garry Meiggs, Commissioner Ross Munro, County Manager Ken Bowman, and Sheriff Rodney Meads.

110918 Gunrange

By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, November 8, 2018

SHILOH — Former Sheriff Tony Perry said Thursday the Camden County Sheriff’s Office’s new firing range will provide much-needed training opportunities for the agency’s deputies.

Perry, who retired earlier this year, was the keynote speaker at a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for the new firing range facility off Trotman Road in Shiloh.

Perry’s successor, Camden Sheriff Rodney Meads, also made brief opening remarks and recognized officials who were present, and then introduced Perry, telling the audience of 50 or so “this is his baby.”

Perry noted that when he first started with the Camden Sheriff’s Office in 1986, deputies just went behind the courthouse to practice firing their weapons. There were really no uniform standards that had to be followed, he said.

Now, he said, standards are rightly much stricter and require deputies and other law enforcement officials to put in adequate time on the firing range in order to maintain their certification to carry and use firearms.

Perry said that in 2014, Camden County learned it was losing its access to a private firing range that deputies had been using. Perry said he began praying for a solution so deputies could continue getting the firearms training they need.

“God sent me Mike McLain, who is the property owner here,” Perry said, referring to the former county commissioner who owns the site off Trotman Road where the firing range is located.

After securing a site, the Camden Sheriff’s Office then faced the challenge of paying for its development into a firing range. To save on costs, Perry said Camden deputies completed much of the work themselves. In fact, he said, that’s why it took longer to get the range built. Deputies completed the work a little at a time so they wouldn’t be pulled away from their other responsibilities.

“It took us two years because we were just working on it part time,” Perry said.

Perry said N.C. Law Enforcement Support Services has a program that allows law enforcement agencies to obtain surplus military equipment. He said the equipment the county received from military bases — including bulldozers and a dump truck — often had to be worked on in order to stay in working order, but it got the job done.

Perry has experience operating heavy equipment and trained some of his deputies to be equipment operators. All of the dirt was donated, and that combined with using the military surplus equipment and doing the work themselves saved the county at least $160,000 on the facility’s cost, Perry said.

James “Bubba” Whitley helped repair some of the equipment, Camden Commissioner Garry Meiggs helped with construction of the road to the range, and Brandon Blount helped with a lot of the work at the site, Perry said.

The net cost of constructing the range to the Camden Sheriff’s Office was about $25,000, Perry said.

“We certainly are proud of our work out here today,” he said.

Perry said the range will be a great tool for Sheriff-elect Kevin Jones and his deputies.

During his remarks, Camden County Manager Ken Bowman mentioned the mass shooting late Wednesday night at a California bar in which 12 people were killed, calling it a tragic reminder of why it’s so important for law enforcement officers to be well-trained and prepared.

“It’s unfortunate what is going on in our world today and it’s just all the more important that we make sure our first responders are well-trained,” Bowman said.

He said the range is an accomplishment the county can be proud of.

“I understand this is a long time coming,” Bowman said.