Tir du Soleil: Canada’s first recreational air gun range promotes anti-violence and weaponry education
By: Jillian Clark – mtltimes.ca
I spent an afternoon this week at Tir du Soleil, Canada’s only air gun shooting range. I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised. As a twenty-something “girly” girl, I was worried that I would leave embarrassed to have failed at a man’s game. That was not even close to the case.
One instructor showed me around, ran through the rules of the range, and set me up to shoot my first ever gun. Although I didn’t leave with the best aim, I had a great time trying to learn the basic technique.
I want to share my experience. Tir du Soleil deserves people to know about the positive space they have created. The genuine time and attention these instructors take to teach each client is unsurpassable.
The level of accessibility is shocking. Literally anyone can participate and feel safe in the space. The instructors are extremely educated, attentive and precautious. Sharp shooters take their place beside first-timers. Pre-teens can opt for a smaller range. Trained shooters take on extra challenges. Everyone enjoys the same relaxing afternoon.
The range does not require a membership like a firearm club. The air guns eliminate the need for real bullets and gun powder, therefore the need for permits to use the weapons. “It’s balance, breathing, and control. The air guns make it so everybody can shoot,” the manager, Edgar Geylik, explains.
Fathers with their sons, couples on dates, and even single women all love hanging out at the range. Instructors even see grandmothers bringing their grandchildren in to learn how to shoot. “The reaction we’ve had is overwhelmingly positive,” Edgar says. I attribute the positive reaction to the stress of safety while shooting: “There’s always somebody watching you without being intrusive. We always pay attention.”
Unfortunately, controversy has risen around the gun club. Some unfairly attribute gun violence to safe sport shooting ranges like Tir du Soleil. Tir du Soleil is an entirely anti-violence facility.
Tir du Soleil wants to lead the anti-violence movement. They want to educate Montrealers. Gun use does not promote violence. North Americans have a skewed perception of where the violence originates. In reality, weapons can be used responsibly in sport to harness and hone skills.
“A lot of people don’t understand what we actually are,” says Edgar. Parents often express concerns that their children will be negatively affected by any time spent behind the glass. Modern movies and video games lead parents to worry that the range promotes similar gun violence. Edgar and the other staff calm their nerves.
Shooting is a skill. It’s an Olympic sport in which even peacekeeping Canada participates.
The kids sometimes arrive rambunctious, eager to recreate the last shooting scene they saw on TV. But after strict instruction, “their attention shifts,” Edgar explains. “They start to see it as a sport.” These kid learn to think of weapons as serious tools. Target shooting is a skill. “It takes patience, dexterity, and practice,” Edgar says. “People feel relaxed and happy when they leave.”
Tir du Soleil’s first priority in the anti-violence movement is safety: “we make people put on glasses, sign consent forms, and understand that this is an activity where people can hurt themselves.” This immediately changes a client’s attitude about the shooting range. After safety, instructors show clients how to have fun. People who are properly taught how to handle guns are more likely to understand that guns can be used as sport, rather than for violence.
The instructors themselves have a kind of personal attachment to the shooting range, and their exceptionally caring boss. “He built this place strictly out of passion,” Edgar says about Lev Chif, the owner. “To him, shooting is an art form.” Edgar knew Lev for years before Tir du Soleil’s opening.
In my afternoon at Tir du Soleil, I had the chance to meet the man himself. He even took the time to give me a quick lesson after I had learnt a bit from his instructors. Lev explained that he picks his instructors based on their professionalism and attitude towards weapons. “I can teach anyone to shoot,” he says. However, I think I’ll need a bit more practice.
“I am a shooter,” says Lev. “I was shooting as a sportsman.” Even before opening Tir du Soleil, Lev held strong beliefs about gun sports. “Shooting has nothing to do with violence,” he says. What people lack is education: “We want people to see that the rifles are not the aggressive things. The aggression is in your head.”
Lev hopes to separate the perceived aggression from the sporting aspect of shooting. “When people come here they see the difference. They see the rifles and pistols as something serious.”
Do you want to learn how to safely shoot a gun in our very city? Tir du Soleil provides clients with a safe space for sport and recreational shooting. Try your hand with rifles, revolvers, combat pistols, semi-automatics and unlimited bullets. Different packages suit different needs, whether you come solo or with a group.
Check out www.tirdusoleil.com for more information.