Fayetteville man with autism denied access to gun range

FAYETTEVILLE, NC (WTVD) -- A Fayetteville family is claiming discrimination, saying their adult son was denied access to a gun range because he has autism.

Steven Prescott can ride a motorcycle, rappel from a skyscraper and work a part-time job. But Saturday, the 24-year-old learned there's one thing he couldn't do and that was shoot at a gun range.

"He thought it was because he didn't have a license to shoot. And we said 'no that's not the case you don't need to have a license.' Then he said maybe it was his age. And we said, 'no that's not it either.' Then we expressed that the reason he was turned away was because an employee thought his autism was a liability," said Steven's father, Tim Prescott.

Gun's Plus said there was a liability concern, but it wasn't because Steven is autistic.

"He was refused from going on the range because he couldn't give any kind of response or cues that he understood the safety briefing or anything like that to actually go on the range and be able to shoot a firearm safely," said Gun's Plus owner Chris Hatley.

Steven, who is mostly non-verbal, depends on his iPad to communicate. He communicated through his device that not being able to shoot hurt his feelings.

"I was a little disappointed," Steven typed.

Steven's parents said his autism shows up in social scenarios but has never kept him from learning new tasks.

"Folks with autism are perfectly capable of learning virtually anything as evidenced by him attending FTCC's horticulture program in pursuit of an associate's degree," Tim Prescott said.

Hatley, the owner of Gun's Plus, knows that for himself.

"My son has autism. He is responsive. So every child who has autism has a different ability processing things," Hatley said.

Autism experts say loud noises or the kickback from a firearm can serve as triggers for those on the spectrum.

"This is such a significant experience. So perhaps they can do it in a private way to see how he would handle it first. But there's just so many negative outcomes," said Dr. Kenneth Fleishman, an adult psychiatrist.

The deadliest outcome is what Gun's Plus said it is trying to prevent.

"We have that duty to the public and the shop to keep everyone safe," Hatley said.

Gun's Plus told ABC11 that it regrets the way the Prescott family felt Saturday. It has offered for Steven to come during a less busy time for an in-depth safety briefing followed by one-on-one lesson.

In the meantime, family and friends have also opened up their land and ranges for Steven to come shoot.
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