Front Sight on target
The first night of the Republican convention focused on education. As both a former schoolteacher and the mother of a special education teacher, Colin Powell's speech made me think about the characteristics that make one educational experience better than another. No matter how many new-fangled ideas are proposed or how much money is spent, the one overriding factor is always the people within the institution: the teachers and administrators with vision of what their students can become and a love of teaching.
Learning to shoot firearms as an adult and then becoming an NRA certified instructor, I have met and worked with many instructors, many of whom had a lot of knowledge to impart, but a lack of understanding about how to teach appropriately. Thus, when I heard about a unique private firearms training organization, Front Sight, located on a 550-acre plot of land outside Las Vegas, Nev., I was skeptical. It wasn't until after a friend of mine who had attended one of their free machine gun courses gave it a rave review,did I consider going there. When I was in California I contacted them on the Web and signed up for the one-day machine gun course.
It was a cloudless day in Las Vegas as we got in the car for the 45-minute drive to Front Sight. It's not really visible from the highway, but as you turnoff Tecopa Road, you drive down a 3-mile road built across the desert. At the end of the road is a large tent sitting on a cleared, flat area surrounded by four shooting ranges.
You see, Front Sight is the dream of a doctor of chiropractic, Ignatius Piazza. Dr. Piazza is a Californian, who became interested in the art of defending one's life with firearms 12 years ago after his quiet neighborhood was invaded by "a group of anti-socials" practicing their drive-by shooting skills. He says he owned and used firearms at the range but had never been taught the skills necessary to cope with that kind of a threat to life and limb.
He set out to really learn how to defend his life. After taking almost every self-defense program available, he developed his own curriculum and started Front Sight Training Institute in Bakersfield, Calif., in 1996. With the passage of more restrictive laws in his home state, it became evident that there were limitations to a California location. Looking across the state line he discovered Nevada's very appealing attributes:
- The Nevada tax structure is business friendly.
- Las Vegas is a destination resort that attracts millions of tourists,giving him a large population from which to draw clients.
- Nevada gun laws are certainly more lenient than those in California, even allowing private citizens to own sub-machine guns.
He set out to find a suitable site to locate his vision of a world-class training facility as well as a community of like-minded folks to live there. Piazza's vision includes a complete training facility and an adjacent gated community complete with private airfield, what one reporter called "a shooter's Disneyland." As reported byWorldNetDaily's Joe Farah, "the community will have 12 shooting ranges, an assault tower, 400 yards of training tunnels, 177 home lots, a convenience store and a private K-12 school. About $3 million of infrastructure is in the ground and the total project is expected to cost some $25million."
Imagine a community where every family living there not only owns firearms,but also knows how to use them. As Piazza told Newsweek, "Wouldn't it be nice to live in the safest town in America?" I doubt, however, that places such as Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., will even take the time to acknowledge that it could be done.
Yet, the idea of such a community has drawn media attention and those reporters that have gone to Front Sight have written positive articles,especially after they have been educated in proper handling of a firearm. Most find that shooting a machine gun is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Front Sight webpagedevoted to media coverage keeps growing each month with coverage from the national press such as Newsweek and USA Today in the past few months. A few months ago I was amazed when I tuned into MSNBC's Special Edition and saw Avery positive 15-minute segment about shooting a machine gun at Front Sight.MSNBC's Special Edition correspondent, Laurie Duie told Piazza that she was proudly displaying her final target at the office and on camera she actually admitted she not only learned how to shoot an Uzi, but also enjoyed it immensely.
As an NRA certified instructor, I was very impressed with the level of instruction at Front Sight. The instructors treated every student with respect and patience. They expected positive results and got them. Even the Australian journalist, who began the class by being visibly upset and was quoted assaying, "I've never fired a gun in my life. This is awful," ended the day on a much, more positive note.
Too often when our loved ones or we are in danger, we aren't prepared and the odds favor the criminal. Dr. Ignatius Piazza wants to change those odds.His mission is to teach people to be able to defend themselves with a firearm,whether it is a handgun, shotgun, rifle, or even a submachine gun. In offering his free submachine gun classes he has been able to get over 6,500 people to visit Front Sight and get good basic firearms instruction and, in addition,learn that shooting can be fun.
Maybe Gen. Powell wasn't addressing the issue of education in the safe and responsible use of firearms in Philadelphia, but the principles of good education apply nevertheless. That's why in classrooms, youth programs, summer camps and daycare centers nationwide the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program has reached more than 12 million children since 1988. That's why NRA has over10,000 certified instructors on its rolls from coast to coast. And that's why mandatory hunter safety education has been passed in every state.
So if you have never shot a machine gun and want to try, try Front Sight.Free machine gun classes are still available from September through December2000. Check it on their website, and then take a vacation to Las Vegas with a side trip to Front Sight and say hello to"Naish."
Tanya K. Metaksa is the former executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action. She is the author of "Safe, Not Sorry," a self-protection manual, published in 1997. She has appeared on numerous talk and interview shows such as "Crossfire," the "Today" show,"Nightline," "This Week with David Brinkley" and the"McNeil-Lehrer Hour," among others.