ARLINGTON — Celebrity shooter and nationally recognized firearms instructor Gabby Franco will be speaking and teaching classes at the Norpoint Gun Range in Arlington from Aug. 23-25, where she will focus on self-defense, empowering women and preventative safety measures.
"This is the first time we've had Gabby Franco host a seminar or class," said range lead Ronnae Keger. "She was a contestant on the television show Top Shot, which is a shooting and marksmanship competition. She owns her own shooting school in Florida as well."
Franco, who competed on seasons four and five of the television show will host an informational seminar for women on Friday, Aug. 23.
"She'll be hosting a seminar on Friday where she focuses on empowering women of all ages to take control of their personal safety and well-being," said Keger. "She has recently published a book as well, called 'Trouble Shooting: Mastering Your Pistol Marksmanship' so we will be hosting a meet and greet where people can take photos with her and have her sign their books."
Franco is an Olympic shooter who has competed in shooting competitions across the globe.
"I've been a shooter for 21 years," said Franco, a petite 32-year-old from Venezuela, who lives and works in Miami. "I started as a member of the Venezuelan Olympic shooting team and competed in the 2000 Olympics. I've competed in 14 different countries and all that was before I turned 22-years-old."
Franco began practicing shooting as a child, influenced by her father.
"My dad was the one who introduced me to shooting," she said. "Being involved in shooting can mean being a part of a family and community. My other two sisters and I, along with my dad, were part of the state shooting team. It was nice to travel and compete with my dad. He kept going with that and he became an athlete in Olympic shooting at age 40."
Franco said it's important for women to empower themselves, with or without a firearm.
"Most men they look at me and they see that I'm petite, 5-feet-tall and don't expect me to succeed," she said. "It shows that the strength comes from within and I am a very determined person."
She wants to share that determination with other women will be bringing her expertise to Arlington.
"Next Friday I'm going to do a seminar and it's more about crime prevention and awareness," she said. "I think it's important for women and anyone to understand that we are responsible for our lives. Period. And we have ways to prevent a crime. During the other part of the seminar, I'm going to speak about firearms. It's important to educate women because society puts women in a victim stage. Because we are women, we can get kidnapped, raped or killed because we are easy prey. It's important for women to get out of that stage and to defend themselves."
It's not just about being physically strong and able to overpower a man. According to Franco, anyone, even a petite female, can take control and defend themselves.
"I'm not a huge woman, I don't look like a guy," she said. "I have my priorities set and I know that there is only one Gabby Franco in this world and if I'm gone, I'm gone. I need to let them know that we all can protect ourselves."
In her class, Franco is hoping to ease some of the apprehension that women have about using a weapon.
"Women have a lot of fear about guns," she said. "Even if they are in the firearm industry they still have fear, because most of them don't have the amount of rounds and experience that men do. I will teach tactical and regular magazine changes, how to change the magazine fast and reload the pistol. I will focus on precision. A shooter who is not precise, is not a shooter, just a person firing a gun. A shooter must be responsible for where the bullet goes and that counts as precision."
Franco will also teach easy ways for women to access their pistol from a holster of some kind.
"That its important because people are used to shooting in a gun range and just grabbing the gun from table," she said. "In real life, the gun is not going to be on the table and there are certain safety rules that everybody must follow so that you can manipulate the gun safely."
The meet and greet will run from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 23, while the seminar will run from 6-9 p.m. and requires pre-registration and a fee of $35.
"We host a lot of classes here, including self-defense law, emergency gunshot wound classes and regular handgun training," said Keger. "However, we don't normally bring in people who are at a celebrity level, so it's kind of a special event. In her classes on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24-25, she will be teaching detailed defensive handgun practices. The Saturday class is for women only and the Sunday class is open to both men and women."
Both classes run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and require pre-registration and a class fee of $200. Participants must bring their own mid-size pistol, eye and ear protection and a holster. Attendees are encouraged to also bring a lunch for the all-day events.
To register, call the Norpoint Gun Range at 360-386-8832.