While the pandemic has kept activity quiet at some local attractions, Baton Rouge’s FRC Indoor Range & Training Facility has never been busier.
The Choctaw Drive facility, which touts itself as the largest indoor shooting range in south Louisiana, has seen a flurry of interest in its 15- and 25-yard lanes, four classrooms and 15,000-square-foot shoot house and simulations training space.
FRC owner John Hanchey describes the events of the past year, including COVID-19 and a divisive election, as the “perfect storm.”
“We saw a lot of first-time gun owners who had never considered purchasing a firearm before,” Hanchey says.
The pandemic triggered panic-buying, which led to a record-breaking number of gun sales in 2020, according to local news reports. A study from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center reported more than 17 million Americans purchased firearms last year, and one-fifth of buyers were first-time gun owners. While gun sales have started declining this summer, they are still higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Hanchey recognized a need in the community and started offering a free class for first-time buyers.
“People were purchasing $500 or $600 guns with no idea how to use them,” he says.
In addition to offering training for all the new local gun owners, FRC partnered with the Baton Rouge Mayor’s Office and the NSSF to distribute more than 1,500 child safety locks for guns. The facility also hosts multiple gun safety classes, including a monthly firearm safety course for children ages 8 to 16. The course focuses on “gun proofing,” instructing youth on what to do if they encounter a gun.
Gordon Hutchinson’s GunSafe Firearms Instruction also offers monthly gun safety classes at FRC, and around town at Baker Range and the Bass Pro Shop in Denham Springs.
Precision Firearms and Indoor Range in Baton Rouge offers a concealed carry course along with defensive handgun training classes, and Baker Range offers concealed carry courses, too.
Right now, Hanchey says the single biggest demographic he sees purchasing firearms is young women between the ages of 26 and 35. More than half of new first-time gun owners last year were women, according to the Northeastern and Harvard study.
“They are moving the industry forward,” Hanchey says.
FRC has two female firearms instructors and hosts regular ladies’ nights offering free instruction.
“It’s packed constantly,” Hanchey says. “The women are really driving this stuff. They are concerned about personal security.”
Louisiana has led the nation in homicides for the past 31 years, according to a New York Times article published in February. The problem is not limited to the Pelican State’s most populous city; Baton Rouge and its surrounding metropolitan areas logged more murders than New Orleans for the first time in 2019.
Hanchey notes that Baton Rouge left cities like Chicago “in the dust” a long time ago, and as CBS News reported in April, the Capital City has the country’s sixth highest murder rate.
Through its free, elective safety courses, Hanchey says FRC hopes to change that. Every safety course is taught by a fully certified firearms instructor and certified range safety officers. The first-time shooter class covers all topics from safety to gun cleaning and loading and unloading.
In addition to its other services, FRC is the headquarters for A Girl and a Gun Women’s Shooting League, the state headquarters for the National African American Gun Owners’ Association and state headquarters for the Pink Pistols LGBTQ Gun Owners’ Association.
“We are very proud of the fact we have such a diverse community of gun owners,” Hanchey says. “We’re all united by the same thing: We like our lives, and we’d like to hang on to them for a while.” frcbr.com