Shnelvar Attends Gun Class, Campaigns in Grand Junction

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Shnelvar Attends Gun Class, Campaigns in Grand Junction

by Ralph Shnelvar, June 26, 2002

This last weekend, I took a gun safety class in Grand Junction. The animosity toward Governor "Gun Control" Owens on the Western Slope is enormous. We spoke with scores of people, and not a single person expressed anything but anger toward Owens. Thus, the press took an interest in my campaign to protect and defend gun rights in Colorado.

Ralph Shnelvar discusses gun safety with one of the instructors from the Grand Valley Training Club.

I was interviewed on two television stations and three radio programs. I also spoke with a reporter from the Daily Sentinel, the largest newspaper in the region.

On Friday (June 21), I picked up Ari Armstrong at around 3:00 pm. Ari is an NRA-certified handgun instructor, so he decided to help out with the class in Grand Junction. He grew up in Palisade, so I figured he could help me meet the locals and navigate the area.

That evening, we went down to the Rockslide brewery in our marijuana-print shirts. Even though the bar was fairly empty, we registered several new Libertarians. I got to bed fairly early, as the gun class started at 7:00 am the next morning.

The gun class is organized by Linn Armstrong (Ari's dad) and the Grand Valley Training Club, which teaches the NRA's basic pistol and home defense courses. Linn holds an advanced certification that allows him to instruct other instructors. He helped most of the other instructors at GVTC earn their certifications, including Ari.

Ralph Shnelvar aims his Glock 9mm down range.

GVTC offers a terrific firearms safety and instruction class. Its instructors offer the standard NRA class, but they also include the latest techniques in stress shooting, essential for personal protection. All the instructors work as volunteers. The program puts around 350 people a year through the class. Since its inception, GVTC has trained thousands of people in the safe and effective use of firearms. Many of those people have gone on to acquire a concealed carry permit.

Linn also organizes the more advanced Tactical Pistol Stress Course, with Alon Stivi. For information about the introductory class that I took or the advanced pistol class, you can see or call Linn at 970.464.5177. God, do I ever recommend this course.

The class was made up of three women and seven men. The youngest, a girl, was 15 years old and she had a terrific time learning about basic gun safety. The class was about 50% classroom-book-lecture (but taught very well and quite entertaining) and 50% shooting range time.

A Grand Junction television station interviews Ralph Shnelvar.

It's telling that Mesa County voted against Amendment 22, the de facto gun registration scheme that Owens signed on the very first line. Having a strong gun safety program in the community makes an enormous difference. In fact, Linn told me that even the Democrat tried to run on the platform of issuing more concealed carry permits! A couple years ago, a local Democrat talked to the local Pro Second Amendment Committee and talked about why she hated Amendment 22! It is truly a different political world over on the Western Slope.

The values I saw on the Western Slope and heard in the gun safety class are largely the same as Libertarian values. Dean Blanck, who led the class over the weekend, said, "you have a right not to be hurt, whether you are large or small, male or female." He added, "You have the right to pursue your own happiness without being interfered with." When asked why he volunteered to teach the class, he said, "You get the gratification of giving someone additional knowledge. I enjoy that."

Shnelvar chats with Buck Buchanan of KAFM radio.

"You have the right to pursue your own happiness without being interfered with." I had to bite my tongue not to go into a lecture about marijuana rights. But I held my tongue since I was there to learn and not to campaign.

Of course the class stresses safety, safety, safety. The instructors drill the three main gun-safety rules constantly. On Saturday, one instructor was available for every two students. On Sunday, there was one instructor per student, plus the range officer. This is truly a committed group of individuals. They volunteer. They get no benefits other than the satisfaction of knowing that their students will be safer.

I had interviews scheduled with all three television stations in town. Unfortunately, due to an omission of the address on the press release and some road construction near the facilities, the crews of all three stations got lost. This just goes to show the importance of the details.

In terms of details, I just have to thank Matthew Edgar who did a fantastic job of handling all the press details and lining up all of the interviews. Matthew, thank you thank you thank you.

Channel 11 KKCO, the NBC affiliate, did find the place Saturday afternoon. I gave an interview and they filmed me shooting on the range. Even though I fumbled through the interview a little, the clip came out great that evening because of good editing. The trip had paid off politically! It's a real thrill seeing yourself on television, especially when you know your message is resonating with the viewers.

Shnelvar prepares for a radio interview.

By that evening I was wiped out. I talked with Ari for a while about strategy, and I also spoke with David Aitken by phone about an interesting but controversial campaign idea. I slept soundly.

The idea was to attempt to register me as Ralph "Progun" Shnelvar (or Ralph "Propot" Shnelvar). After a lot of soul searching (and calls with a lot of Libertarians state-wide), I decided to drop the idea. I have enough on my plate as it is without starting a fight with the Secretary of State's office.

The next day, in a 3-hour lecture we heard from the Palisade police chief about Colorado's laws pertaining to firearms. This is an integral part of every NRA home defense course. The police chief was clear and sympathetic to the gun owner's plight: the law is ambiguous and still being hashed out in the courts. Worse, the course "just scratches the surface." The rule of thumb: If your life is in danger do everything you can to not use your gun BUT if you can't do that then defend yourself and worry about the consequences later. At least you'll be alive.

That afternoon, it was back to the range. Now, the focus was on shooting under stress. The idea is that you use your natural ability to point as a way of aiming the firearm. We shot with low light to work on positive identification of the target. We shot around corners. We learned how to detain a criminal safely until the police arrive. (After all, most defensive uses of a firearm do not involve the firing of a shot.)

After the class, we went to the studio of Channel 8 KJCT, the ABC affiliate. Unfortunately, the lady who interviewed me was less than thrilled with the job. She didn't ask a single question of me, so I just said why I was in town and why gun owners should vote for me. I was disappointed that my clip never made the news -- I was beat out by an ice-cream eating competition. But you can't win them all. Because the station never found the class, it had less interesting material to air. That was my fault; I am ultimately responsible for everything in my campaign.

Shnelvar sits on a bike, owned by Kurt, at right. Shnelvar spent Friday night campaigning on Main Street in Grand Junction.

I had an early interview on the radio, so again I went to bed fairly early on Sunday night after talking with John Geltemeyer and John Berntson and David Aitken and Desiree Hickson and I can't remember who else discussing the "Progun" nickname.

I went to bed around 10:30 deeply conflicted and deeply upset that I got beat out by an ice-cream eating competition for air time.

I met Ari at around 7:20 am and we headed over to KNZZ 1100 AM, the area's largest AM station. At 7:45, I was interviewed live on Jim Davis' news program. Then I sat in for a half-hour interview with Steve Barrows for a commercial-free Public Affairs interview. We spent most of the time talking about guns, but we also hit marijuana, education, and the drought.

I discussed the drought with about every media outlet. My basic message was that we needed better forest management and more property rights in land and water. On Friday evening, Ari and I were headed into Grand Junction on I-70. At one point, both east-bound lanes of I-70 were closed off and the traffic was routed along a frontage road. At least a dozen emergency vehicles were on scene. Ari saw a smashed-in van and feared there might be fatalities. Later we learned that that was the crash in which five fire fighters were killed. They had been heading for the Hayman fire. This really brought home to me in a very emotional way the importance of fire control in our state. Had we had controlled burns then we would likely not be in the situation we are in today.

After the radio program, we headed over to KREX, the CBS affiliate on Channel 5. The people there were interested in the campaign, and I gave a good interview.

After meeting Linn and his wife Sharon for an early lunch, we went to an alternative radio station, KAFM. Buck Buchanan was a gracious host for the live half-hour interview. He is a little left-leaning, so the discussion turned to issues like corporate welfare and mass transit. I'm not sure Buck liked my take that mass transit is great as long as it's offered by the free market, but I think the message will resonate with most residents of the Western Slope.

Finally, we met Gary Harmon of the Daily Sentinel at a Wendy's near my hotel. Harmon has the unfortunate job of covering the Blagg murders. The search for the body of the little girl continues at the dump. When I pitched him my position on legalizing marijuana, I emphasized how we can better use our police resources if we're not going after those who are no threat to others. We talked a lot about gun rights, of course.

Gary is a very nice man. We had a pleasant conversation for about an hour and a half. We talked a fair amount about my heritage, which has helped shape my views on self-defense.

Finally we were headed home. I was tired, and so was Ari. Ari had the luxury of sleeping in the car. We were anxious to get back to our families. It was an enormously successful weekend. The gun class alone was worth the trip. And the press attention made the time there some of my most successful campaign ventures. I feel like I built a lot of bridges in Grand Junction, and I think that that will pay off through the election season.

The Colorado Freedom