UNION, NJ — It’s the only one of its kind in a 15-mile radius, and RTSP co-owner and chief executive officer Rick Friedman recognizes the challenges that come with operating his shooting range in a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
“I would love to have the freedoms that everyone else enjoys, but I’ll always be a Jersey boy” Friedman, who co-owns the RTSP gun range, told LocalSource on Dec. 13. “I want to change my home and I want my home to recognize the rights of other states instead of running away. If I leave, they win.”
RTSP opened Dec. 8 on U.S. Route 22 East in Union in a former pet-supply store. Friedman and his two business partners, Peter Miscia and Brad Tremaroli, signed a lease for the Union location more than three years ago, and since than have pleaded their case with the Township Committee and various government entities, saying RTSP will help create jobs in town and promote firearm safety.
“People do own guns and if you don’t give them a place where they can learn about things like safety, gun ownership, proper storage and handling, they could end up being irresponsible owners,” he said. “Training is the key to safe gun ownership.”
Gun ranges are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the state police and the municipalities in which they are located, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA.
“There’s nothing that goes on in this business that isn’t looked at and tracked,” Friedman said. “It’s the most regulated business I’ve ever seen.”
The range, located at 2438 U.S. Route 22 East between Springfield Road and North Michigan Avenue, is the second for Friedman’s company. The Union location includes an extensive retail area and two ranges. Their Randolph location features a training center and is “more of a gun club,” Friedman said.
The Union location includes 9,000 square feet of retail space and two indoor ranges of 25 yards and 50 yards in length, with electric target retrieval systems and 40 shooting ports.
Friedman admits that conversations often get political in his line of work.
“New Jersey isn’t the most gun-friendly place, and one of the reasons we opened in Randolph is because we’re here to defend the (Second Amendment). We want people to get more comfortable with it,” he said. “We looked at it as a first step on education in a state that tries its best to restrict the rights of gun owners.”
There are more than 50,000 registered guns in New Jersey, according to 2017 statistics from U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Those who don’t own guns can also participate in the fun. RTSP allows single shooters to rent firearms only if they have a state-issued firearms identification card. But gun renters in groups of two or more can come to RTSP and rent firearms with only valid picture identification. Before going to the range and meeting with a safety officer, renters watch an eight-minute safety video to ensure everyone’s protection.
“It’s almost like test driving a car,” Friedman said. “You want people to be comfortable, because it’s so hard to get a gun permit in the state that if you didn’t try it out, to get another is next to impossible.”
The process of obtaining a permit, from applying for a firearms identification card to purchasing a firearm, includes three background and mental health checks.
Since New Jersey law prohibits owners without a carry permit from transporting a firearm from any place other than their home to the range, RTSP has teamed up with Black Rifle Coffee, a military veteran-owned company, and created the Freedom Cafe, where customers can gather to wait for a shooting port to open.
“The state’s gun laws don’t allow you to just hop in your car with your gun in the trunk and go to McDonald’s if you have to wait,” Friedman explained. “We wanted to offer something different.”
Friedman and his partners opened their Randolph location in 2011 because they were traveling more than 70 miles to get to the nearest shooting range.
“We were just traveling too far,” Friedman said. “The state needed another place and that’s how we came up with the idea for Randolph.”
He thinks Union’s diverse community and RTSP’s prime location will help make it a success.
“When we were first searching for a second location, I was driving down Route 22 and saw this big, empty building and thought it would be the perfect location,” Friedman stated.