Diversity shoot founder on the front lines of breaking down barriers for N.J. firearms users

When serious illness made him consider canceling his “2nd is For Everyone: Diversity Shoot” in October 2016, Marine turned NRA certified firearms instructor Tony Simon witnessed just how quickly the New Jersey Second Amendment community can come together for a good cause.

“I was extremely ill and was seriously thinking about canceling the event,” Simon recalls. “I spoke to Sean Fisher, owner of Black Bag Resources, my best friend (and the man behind giving me the push to start 2A4E) about canceling. He said the show must go on and volunteered to host the event in my absence. Everyone stepped up, and I soon had volunteers for every aspect of the event. People who were not going to go to the event canceled their plans and volunteered to drive to North Jersey during rush hour to help make the event a success.”

[Read more about Sean Fisher: Noted NRA instructor impressed by who attends NJ SAFE]

Simon became a firearms instructor in 2013 “after many years away from firearms.” He was born in rural southwestern Virginia and “grew up with firearms being a part of my life as a food gathering and defensive tool that could also be used to plink and entertain people with feats of marksmanship.”

Having attended both NJ SAFE events to date, Simon says “each time I am touched by the number of people who come out to learn about and support their civil rights when so many in this day and age just sit at home and want to know what others can do for them. The attendees at these events want to know what can they do to help. We learn about what is going on with the legislative side of Second Amendment politics, about firearms trainers, suppliers and businesses that support the Second Amendment, about pro-2A groups in the state and about events and places that the can got to shoot and have fun.”

[Watch: Tony Simon discusses how he became active as an advocate for Second Amendment issues in New Jersey and the importance of engaging fellow gun owners.]

Keeping things fun presents challenges, Simon explains. He often finds first-time users of firearms can be intimidated by learning from a pro. “They feel that they are not ‘good enough’ to take a class, and they want to get better at shooting so they won’t embarrass themselves in a class. Come and take a class; everyone is there to learn, and you can avoid learning bad habits that will have to be unlearned in class.”

Conversely, a hurdle with more advanced shooters “is making them do things that they are not good at. Everyone wants to work on their strengths, but if you want me to help you become a better overall shooter you are going to have to improve the things that you don’t do well. That really sucks when you have to work on stuff you are not good at in front of others — but if you want to improve you must put in the work.”

Simon expanded on his firearms advocacy in February 2014 by creating “The 2nd is For Everyone: Diversity Shoot,” held at the Gun For Hire range in Woodland Park. “I’ve had many people touch a firearm for the first time at these events,” he recalls. “For example, a co-worker approached me saying that shooting a gun was on his mom’s bucket list and asked if he could bring her to a 2A4E event. She was sitting in the front row with him at the next event and learned to shoot a pistol from Shari (Spivack), one of the founders of Second Amendment Women Shooting Club, a volunteer instructor at the event.”

Being able to meet in person with 2A advocates like Simon is one of the ways NJ SAFE works to eliminate barriers to and the stigma of gun ownership.

“If your family and friends think you are weird or dangerous because you want to exercise your civil right (to own firearms), that is a lot for some people to over come,” Simon says.

Furthermore, “buying, shooting, hunting, collecting or competing in the shooting sports can be expensive. Purchasing the firearm is just the entry fee into the firearms lifestyle. You need a range membership, case to carry your gun to the range, ammo at the range, safety gear, a range bag for your gear, to join a Second Amendment group, take some training, a safe to secure your firearm when it’s not in use, more ammo, another firearm, accessories for your firearm, cool gear, a more expensive firearm, a bigger safe, a social media account to show pictures of your firearm. It just goes on and on.”

Ultimately, “You will meet some of the greatest people in the world in this community, and I am very proud to be a part of it.”

You can find Diversity Shoots here or register for NJ SAFE Conference here.

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Geoff Giordano is a lifelong journalist who brings decades of editorial experience to telling brand stories that matter. As founder and chief content officer of content-marketing firm Driven Inbound, he employs a newsroom ethic of speed and accuracy in executing campaigns customized for each client. He specializes in generating ideas for new revenue streams that also serve to provide you all the "content" you need. For a free consultation and to learn more about how content marketing can boost your digital presence and your bottom line, email geoff@driveninbound.com.