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Gun Awareness and Inclusivity Staples at “The Gun Range”

   Yuri Zalzman is passionate about guns. It’s evident as he walks through his gun range, offering specific instruction to first-time shooters on how to operate anything from a small handgun to a larger rifle.

   He does this frequently — not only because it’s his job, but as the owner of The Gun Range on Percy Street, right near 10th and Spring Garden Streets, he wants people to understand the great responsibility of operating firearms.

   “It’s all about education,” said Zalzman, 48. “Whether people like it or not, even if you come here just for entertainment, you need a degree of education to hit the target.”

Outside of the Gun Range./Steve Bohnel

Outside of the Gun Range./Steve Bohnel

   The Gun Range recently celebrated its five-year anniversary earlier this month. Formerly known as Colosimo’s, the range serves about 12,000-15,000 people per year, Zalzman said.

   He added that one of the range’s main themes is inclusivity, cooperating with groups ranging from Black Guns Matter, women and even the LGBTQ community.

   “There are some gay people that come in here … they’re really bad-ass,” Zalzman said. “I wouldn’t want to go up against some of these people, they’re highly trained.”

   Several women were shooting for the first time last Friday afternoon. One of them was Jamila Lopez, 22, who was visiting from the Bronx on a business trip.

   Lopez believes education about operating firearms is important, and appreciated Zalzman’s guidance.

   “It’s like reassuring, because he’s teaching us the right way to do things,” she said. “I wasn’t doing so well in the beginning, but then I was doing better afterwards.”

Yuri Zalzman instructs Jamila Lopez on how to use a handgun./Steve Bohnel

Yuri Zalzman instructs Jamila Lopez on how to use a handgun./Steve Bohnel

   There were, however, more experienced shooters. One of them was Nicholas Ramos, 27, who was also from the Bronx and celebrating part of his brother’s birthday at the range.

   Ramos said he’s attended several gun ranges, but appreciated the way Zulzman and his staff operate the business.

   “I like this one, it’s very calm, very relaxing,” he said. “It’s very easy going and they make you feel comfortable.”

   Zalzman said that sense of community has been present since he opened the range half a decade ago.

   “It’s accepting everybody that comes through the doors as the human being that they are,” he said. “However they see themselves sexually, however they see themselves politically, regardless of what country they’re from.”

   He added the range frequently holds special monthly shooting events. Last month, they shot computers. On January 30th, they’re be shooting vastly different objects: sex toys.

Inside the Gun Range./Steve Bohnel

Inside the Gun Range./Steve Bohnel

   Outside of these events and walk-in instruction, Zulzman also offers longer classes on gun training, along with self-defense and non-lethal training. Shooters can bring their own firearm(s), or you can rent equipment in the range. A lane and a gun cost $40 to rent, and other small additional expenses are added as needed.

   The range, which features 13 lanes, was almost at full capacity last Friday afternoon, as Zulzman and his staff filtered through the shooting room to offer instruction to first-time firearm users.

   Before those first-time users can even enter the shooting range, they must do a dry-run, learning how their firearm is assembled and how it operates. Zulzman said this instruction is necessary because his clients are not just customers, but are also human beings who deserve attention.

   The purpose of this interaction comes back to safety—even if the client is experienced, Zulzman and his colleagues need proof.

   “If the person knows what they’re doing, it’s immediately obvious,” he said. “And if they don’t, it’s equally as apparent. There’s no in-between.”

   Zulzman plans to expand his range and open up a gun shop on-site this year. Ultimately, he hopes the inclusivity in his range breaks stereotypes about experienced gun owners and those who have never fired a firearm before.

   “The reality is with few exceptions in our lives, taxes and death, few things are really black or white,” he said. “We exist a world that is shaded in gray. Light gray to dark gray, it doesn’t matter … so to frame any issue in absolute terms is something someone foolish would do.”

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