It’s one of the funny quirks of SHOT Show that you can travel thousands of miles and find a story from much closer to home. That’s the case with today’s Bearing Arms Cam & Co, where we’re featuring a conversation with Tony Simon, one of my favorite people in the world and the founder of DiversityShoot.com and 2A4E (Second Amendment is for Everyone).
For more than five years, Tony’s been hosting DiversityShoot events at the Gun For Hire range in Woodlawn Park, New Jersey, and the program has grown by leaps and bounds since the first shoot, where a grand total of four people turned out. But as Tony shares on today’s show, Diversity Shoot was nearly derailed almost two years ago thanks to COVID.
When New Jersey’s anti-gun governor declared that gun ranges were non-essential businesses, Gun For Hire and every other range in the state was forced to shut down for several months. Not only did that jeopardize every one of those businesses, it put a screeching halt to the Diversity Shoot events that were being held on a monthly basis.
It would have been easy for Tony to throw up his hands and give up, but that’s not who he is. Instead, when the Heritage Guild range in Easton, Pennsylvania offered up their space for a Diversity Shoot, Simon jumped at the chance to keep the shoots going, and when Gun For Hire re-opened a few months later, there were now two locations offering the chance for gun owners and would-be gun owners to get together to do a little shooting and learn about how to be more effective political activists in defense of their 2A rights.
Demand was high, and the Diversity Shoots grew even more popular as the pandemic’s dragged on. Not only have we seen a huge influx in the number of new gun owners across the country, but many of them are looking for both training opportunities and a welcoming community of gun owners that they can be a part of. Diversity Shoot delivers both, and the program has further expanded to a total of three ranges; two in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania. Tony Simon continues to host each event while still managing his full-time job, and he’s doing most of this on his own dime as well, though he says that he’s learned to embrace his inner “gun bunny” and offer up things like mugs, t-shirts, and patches for sale to help fund the Diversity Shoots and hopefully expand the program to other states.
In fact, one of the goals of Tony’s trip to SHOT Show is to find an ammunition sponsor for Diversity Shoot, because he’s currently paying for most of what is used out of his pocket. Consider this an unpaid testimonial in support of Tony’s work, and I hope that by the time SHOT Show wraps up Simon can say he’s found at least one company eager to support the grassroots work that’s taking place at every Diversity Shoot that’s held.
Be sure to check out the entire conversation with Tony in the video link above, but also check out Diversity Shoot for yourself and help out if you can. And stay tuned for more coverage from the 2022 SHOT Show, including a look at two very different futures of the firearms industry that are both on display here this year: “smart guns” and “ghost guns”.