Due west of Vegas, in the rolling scrubland
where myths about the shoot-'em-up American West linger like
high plains sunsets, Ignatius
Piazza's utopia, where everyone packs heat in peace, is
becoming a reality. Ten miles before Pahrump, on Highway 160,
in the shadow of the Spring Mountains, this self-styled entrepreneur
is building Front Sight,
the world's first gated community dedicated exclusively to guns
and the people who like to shoot them.
The 550-acre town is rapidly springing to
life. Dirt roads crisscross a site that already boasts power
lines and a water well. Wood stakes mark the future locations
of the 12 shooting ranges, a classroom, an armory, a pro shop,
a SWAT tower, and a landing strip, all of which should be ready
by this spring. And 29 of the 177 one-acre home lots have already
Sight matures into a fully equipped facility, it will also
boast such high-tech amenities as video simulators, an elaborate
defensive driving course, and a celebrity training center, where
movie stars can enjoy target practice in private. In short,
Front Sight's gunning to
be a veritable firearms theme park and community, a place where
the right to bear arms and freshly picked tomatoes meet.
"The location is excellent because there's
only one Las Vegas in the world." says the mustachioed Ignatius Piazza,
from the interim Front Sight
training facility outside Bakersfield, California, a nonresidential,
small-scale version of its Nevada counterpart. "We will benefit
from our proximity to this resort facility!"
SIGHT'S GUNNING TO BE A
VERITABLE FIREARMS THEME PARK
AND COMMUNITY, A PLACE WHERE
THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS AND
FRESHLY PICKED TOMATOES MEET.
Resort is a word Piazza
frequently uses, likening his desert creation to the gated golf
communities found in warm-weather states. Front
Sight, he says, will offer people of similar interests a
place to live, play, train, and above all exercise their much
trampled-upon Second Amendment rights in peace.
The price tag to create a town out of nothing
is staggering: $25 million, all of it to be raised through club
dues and private investors. And, predictably, some gun-control
advocates are up in arms. But Piazza
"I will admit it's a daunting task." he says,
sounding like a general surveying the designated battlefield.
"But I've never looked back. It's only a question of how fast
it will go up!"
steadfast belief in guns, one might expect to find military
service or perhaps right-wing militia connections on his resume.
Not so. His family doesn't even shoot guns. Piazza
was just an ordinary suburban California chiropractor - albeit
a gun owner - until one frightful day back in 1988.
That night, while watching TV with his wife,
thrill-seeking drive-by shooters opened fire in his neighborhood.
to the floor until the bullets stopped flying. Later, surveying
the damage from his front lawn, shaken and angry, he experienced
"It was a realization that, without training,
you're at the mercy of whatever crazed individual chooses you
as a victim." says Piazza.
"What could I have done? My guns were all locked up safe! That
was then. Today, he carries a .40 caliber Glock 22 pistol most
of the time. Piazza
is unapologetic about his firearm support. He believes that
every state should allow ordinary folks to carry concealed weapons
in order to protect themselves against rampant "moral decay."
more immediate mission, however, is to teach gun owners how
to react quickly in an emergency. The basic Front
Sight course, generally taught by former cops and former
military leaders, consists of classes in gun handling, marksmanship,
and tactical training. "If that same drive-by shooting happened
today and it turned into a home invasion, I would be well trained."
Piazza says flatly.
He doesn't, however, want to seem trigger-happy.
He carefully controls media coverage of the project, usually
requiring journalists to take part in a Front
Sight training course before consenting to an interview.
It's to show the outside world that Front
Sight is far more legitimate and far less fringe than a
survivalist boot camp.
A gated gun town might strike some as positively
medieval. But Piazza's
acolytes don't seem too concerned with the opinions of gun-hating
liberals. Especially when feudal, gated communities for like-minded
folks are cropping-up in other parts of the U.S. "I think it's
a tremendous idea because people can go there and shoot anytime
they want." says 58-year-old Bill Laird, a naval consultant
from San Bernardino County, California, who purchased a Front
Sight lot this year as an eventual retirement destination.
Like most Front
Sight residents, he's an older Caucasian male, a gun hobbyist
who feels vulnerable in an increasingly hostile society. "I
don't want to be a victim of the crimes I see on the news."
he says. Unlike Piazza,
Laird has never been shot at. But he's well prepared for the
day when he is.
Fear of victimization and chaos usually amount
to not much more than a stirring hour of radio or television,
in the case of Front Sight,
however, they appear to have built a town. Still, Piazza
wants to go one step further. He believes Americans should arm
themselves en masse because only that will discourage criminals.
In the wake of the Columbine shootings last year, for example,
that teachers carry firearms. He says 200 teachers so far have
responded to his ads offering to train them.
also explains how this country's gun-control laws are ineffectual.
"The criminals are laughing at the legislators [who are trying
to pass] anti-gun laws." he says scornfully. "The criminals
are never going to follow them!"
Sight attract this criminal element? No, says Piazza.
The $900 fee for the basic four-day course already dissuades
most sociopaths. Front Sight
also requires a detailed character reference, a criterion that
Piazza claims makes
his classes more selective than most American police forces.
"They're the kind of people who like to play with guns, and
it's a safe place to play with them," says Pahrump town board
chairman Gary Hollis, whose own gun is mounted on his truck.
Many gun critics say the 20th century will
be remembered as a dark age, an era when handguns, still legal,
were responsible for mass murders at schools, day-care centers,
and churches. But Piazza
claims that it's the dawn of a golden age in gun rights. He
confidently predicts that Front
Sight will become so popular that it will spawn similar
franchises across the country. And if these designer villages
force anti-gun citizens to form gated gun-free communities,
so be it.
"That's fine," Piazza
says ominously, "criminals have to go and work somewhere!"