By John Wolcott HBJ Freelance Writer
ARLINGTON — Think it’s time to arm yourself for protection?
News stories about home invasions, street encounters with criminals and an increase in the number of permits issued for carrying concealed weapons have spurred many people to think about buying guns for self-defense.
Women, particularly, are buying guns for protection because they often feel vulnerable.
That’s why expert gun instructor Brian Hallaq has developed some important guidance, warnings and training to help people prepare for handling guns in threatening situations, as well as how to avoid harming yourself.
Hallaq, a King County attorney, co-owns Norpoint Gun Range in Arlington. A proactive advocate for gun training and safety, he wants customers who are unfamiliar with guns but feel they need the protection.
“We like to make money with our business, of course, but we bought the gun range and store in 2007 primarily to educate people about how to use and handle weapons safely,” he said. “At the same time, our facility provides shooters with opportunities for maintaining their skills, as well as serving people who enjoy becoming more proficient in shooting or knowing where to buy a variety of guns.”
Hallaq’s motivation came from his law practice. As a partner in BTA Lawgroup in Federal Way, he saw many people in court because of gun-related crimes or accidents, including people who just wanted to protect themselves and thought a gun would be the answer, without training or orientation.
Already familiar with firearms, he still took a training course himself, but felt it wouldn’t do much for him. What Hallaq discovered was that he didn’t know as much as he thought about his weapon and sometimes wasn’t handling it safely. That really opened his eyes, he said.
“Somehow, people feel that just owning a gun makes them safe,” he said. “I used to be one of those people. Then I found out I’d lost touch with gun safety. Eventually I progressed through more classes, became a certified firearms instructor and then found the opportunity to buy the Norpoint facility. Believe me, we came into this business with an agenda — to teach people about gun safety.”
All Norpoint classes are designed to improve marksmanship, teach gun safety and instill the mental attitude needed to own a firearm. But Hallaq’s real passion is teaching people about the safe, defensive use of handguns.
“A classic situation is a grandmother who hears about crime on the rise and goes to buy a gun,” he said. “Typically, she’ll be sold a very small revolver that’s cute and fits easily in her hand. Then she finds it hurts to shoot it and it’s difficult to aim, so it ends up in the bedroom dresser, waiting for a grandchild to find it.”
Those kinds of situations can be headed off, he said.
“It’s a good sign when someone says they’d like to buy a gun but they think they might be dangerous with it, hurting someone or causing an accident,” Hallaq said. “They’re the ones who will seek training. The person I really worry about is the inexperienced shooter who has a cavalier attitude toward guns and feels that simply having a gun protects them. They’re often so arrogant that they get careless, their mind is off elsewhere or they’ve got new equipment and treat it too casually.”
“You can’t take a bullet back, you have to train people before that happens,” Hallaq said. “If we can do that, this whole business is worth it. That’s why we put every dime of profit back into (the business) to make it better.”
He tells clients they can’t do anything to make a gun entirely safe, short of breaking it into pieces. But they can learn how to treat a gun properly, not just how to hit a target.
“We see a lot of people in our classes who were crime victims, often so traumatized they’re afraid to walk out their front door,” he said. “Our training instills confidence as well as gun-handling ability.”
That confidence and training are important, he said.
“Criminals I’ve talked to agree,” Hallaq said. “They’ll take a gun away from a big muscular guy if he looks like he’s afraid to use it. But they’ll run from an 80-year-old grandmother pointing a .22-caliber pistol if they believe she’ll really use it.”
Norpoint classes teach about the psychology of owning a gun, how to build confidence using a weapon, respect for weapons and ammunition and how to keep a weapon safe.
“For some reason, some people feel the need to show their gun to someone,” he said. “Let it be your secret. It’s for protection, not for showing off.”
Facilities and classes
Norpoint Gun Range offers 18 indoor shooting lanes in three bays for practice with pistols, rifles and shotguns.
Classrooms are used for instruction in gun safety, marksmanship, firearm maintenance, handgun retention, disarming an armed adversary and advanced defensive firearm courses. Those include basic handgun cleaning and maintenance, the laws on concealed weapons and the use of force, pepper spray use, disarming an attacker and preventing an attacker from disarming you.
“For people who choose to own a firearm for defensive purposes, the threshold is even higher than for those who keep weapons in their homes,” Hallaq said. “They have chosen to walk among members of our society with an instrument that can save lives, but only when used properly and under the right circumstances.”
For more information, visit Norpoint Gun range at the intersection of Highway 9 and 172nd Street NE, go to www.norpointrange.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-386-8832.
Norpoint will hold a grand reopening on Nov. 23 and 24 with special vendors, local celebrities, a tactical equipment demonstration, competition shoots and raffles. Several Wounded Warriors who have written biographies will share their stories. Proceeds will benefit Operational Advocates Supporting Injured Soldiers, a nonprofit group that gives active duty and former U.S. Special Operations Command members, prisoners of war and their dependents advice on claims filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs.