On Target: New Jersey Man Introduces a New Gun Culture

In 1992, professional firearms trainer Anthony Colandro had a vision. After becoming frustrated with local gun ranges catering to only a predominately white male demographic, he wanted to create a business for an unserved market. He founded Gun for Hire, the only gun range in the United States that caters to women and families first and focuses on awareness and protection rather than standard firearm training.

“Most gun ranges were off-shoots of the hunter mentality, which most hunters were fourth or fifth generation white males. You hardly ever saw females or minorities. I created this industry and this business catering to women and families which has made it highly successful,” said Colandro.

Located in Woodland Park, New Jersey, Gun for Hire from the outside appears to be like any other shooting range. However, visitors are met with a distinctive type of experience, where women and families are the driving force of the business. Colandro, who opened the Woodland Park location four years ago, takes pride in his diverse clientele.

“I’ll see women walk in and they have this closed body language. They’re a little nervous and they don’t know what to expect, and then when they walk out you see the body language and it’s completely different. They leave with confidence. If you leave here with a positive feeling, that’s a win for me.”

Besides providing basic to advanced level firearm training, Gun for Hire offers visitors over 90 classes ranging from basic first-aid to defense against an active shooter. Going on 25 years in the industry, Colandro says he has seen a spike in enrollment over recent years due to random acts of violence happening around the world.

“When the Brussels attack happened, or when the Paris attack, or the Orlando attack, any time there is some type of attack,” Colandro said. “Our business goes up. People who may have been on the fringe or not thinking about firearms or self-defense previous to that seem to have an awakening. It triggers them and they’ll come in and say to us that they have been afraid of guns their whole lives but now they feel that they should have one. Unfortunately, every time there is a tragedy I see an uptick in this industry.”

Before opening in 2013, Gun for Hire was met with a great deal of community resistance. The township of Woodland Park feared that the range would be a dangerous environment and an unnecessary addition. The facility, which will be expanding from 19 to 60 shooting ports by summer 2017, made headlines last year after two suicides occurred within two months of each other with the use of rented firearms.

These suicides along with others at competing gun ranges in New Jersey sparked controversy over the safety of their rental policy, which allows anyone with a driver’s license or passport and a friend to rent a firearm. Two bills were created, and if passed, would require a firearm purchaser identification card or permit before use at any range in New Jersey.

New Jersey Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo told NorthJersey.com in November 2016, “While going to the range can be a fun and educational experience, recent fatal shootings at these facilities in New Jersey serve as stark reminders that even in a controlled environment, it also can become tragic in the blink of an eye.”

Colandro stands by the safety of his range, but recognizes that the controversy over guns will never go away.

Despite the controversy, Colandro says that by removing the stigma of firearm ranges at his business, he has become a part of the community rather than something the community fears.

“We’ve created a wholesome environment where people can practice with their guns responsibly. We have been at this location for four years now and have proved ourselves to be a solid part of the community. We proved ourselves to be above what the perception is.”

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