Hundreds of thousands of first-time gun owners have bought firearms since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March. Gun stores around the country have been inundated with people who have decided that, given the uncertainty of a national emergency, having the means to defend yourself and your family makes a lot of sense.
One of those businesses that found itself serving scores of people new to gun ownership is the Pioneer Shooting Center in Mount Vernon, New York. The store and range are owned by Michael and Denine Timlin and family matriarch Rita Timlin. Being so close to New York City, they found themselves selling guns to a lot of people who had never fired a gun before and were clamoring for basic safety and training information.
While the state’s shutdown order kept them closed, the store continued to sell guns online. They also delivered guns to those who had ordered them before the shutdown order.
Pioneer manager Cesar Pinero gave Facetime and Zoom lessons to customers. He taught first-timers the basics of firearms safety, how to store and handle their gun and give them tips on basic use. The virtual training wasn’t ideal, but it was better than nothing.
Then New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that businesses like Pioneer’s indoor range could open starting May 15. The Timlins and Pinero made plans to serve their customers in the safest manner possible, both on the range and in the retail area. Customers are seen by appointment only. Strict social distancing is observed with masks, hand sanitizer and gloves available for everyone.
But then Cuomo changed his mind. Repeatedly. May 15 was pushed to the middle of June. Then back to May 30. With all the uncertainty, though, the demand for basic firearms training was huge. Pioneer had been getting calls from people as far away as Albany — almost 150 miles — because so many ranges around the state have been forced to close permanently due to the shutdown’s devastating financial effects.
Pioneer — which owns its own facility — made the decision to move ahead and open as of yesterday. They brought in Rob Pincus of I.C.E. Training and scheduled training sessions to meet the demands of their customers.
The primary goal was making sure that the first-time gun buyers they’d been seeing had access to basic, professional safety and proficiency training.
Pincus and Pinero made a lot of changes to accommodate the new safety procedures. As Pincus told us, that meant . . .
…reduced class size, reduced duration, shorter lectures, mandatory masks, hand sanitizer during each reload break and coming/going from range. I wear gloves and change the set anytime I touch a student or their gear.
Pinero and Pioneer took every possible precaution for the first classes yesterday.
We have a physician who has been directly involved in the coronavirus response here and he was consulted ahead of time on the protocols and gave a thumbs up (he’s also taking the class).
Again, technically, the range wasn’t cleared to be open yet. The store is still only open to deliver firearms that buyers had ordered before the shutdown or online. And then only by appointment. They’re still not serving walk-in customers. But as Pincus said,
These two sessions were definitely legitimate training courses, but they were also experiments and political protests at the same.
Pincus and Pioneer’s management intend to share the protocols they with other ranges as best practices to follow as they open.
Mark Walters interviewed Pincus on his Armed American Radio show about the training sessions yesterday.