NMU students who have itchy trigger fingers can now breathe a sigh of relief as a relatively new club on campus will give them the opportunity to shoot their hearts out in a safe environment.
The Sportsmen Gun Club was started in winter semester of 2009 as a way for founder Frederic Gygi, 25, to share his love of guns with other people. And he’s certainly done a good job. The club now holds over 100 members, each of whom agrees that the main focus of the club is a fun, friendly and safe atmosphere.
The gun club has options for people who are interested in all aspects of shooting. They meet at least twice a week to shoot, as well as hosting hunting trips, trips to gun shows and even competing. The club also hosts guest speakers, including members of the local police. They hold classes as well, such as a concealed weapons class.
However, there’s a lot more to the gun club than guns.
“The environment that surrounds a member when they join is phenomenal. Everyone is always more than willing to help one another out,” Gygi said.
William Tolsma, 24, an electrical technology major is one of the Gun Club’s newest members.
Tolsma saw the group in the student announcements and thought he’d check it out. According to Tolsma, everyone he’s met has been extremely encouraging and also seem very knowledgeable about firearms.
“I’ve met a lot of new people here,” he said.
Steven Rais, 23, an electronic engineering technology major, is also new member. Rais, who has been shooting skeet for nine years, got involved to help others learn to shoot and to have a good time.
He has also been impressed with the atmosphere in the club.
“The atmosphere is friendly in my opinion, members don’t have a problem teaching each other either,” he said.
That certainly seems to be true.
“Never has anyone ever felt singled out or were embarrassed no matter what their skill level may be. That’s what I want this club to be about” Gygi said.
Sarah Schwenke, 27, a general business major, has been involved since the summer, when she got her concealed weapons permit.
“I’ve always grown up around guns,” she said. “All the women in my family knew how to shoot.”
Despite being one of only a few women in the gun club, Schwenke feels right at home.
“Everyone has been really nice,” she said. “I’ve never not felt comfortable or welcome.”
Criminal justice major Nicholas Capaldi, 21, has been involved since the gun club’s inception last winter. He also found out about the club through the student announcements.
Like Gygi, and many of the other members, he wants to share his love of guns with other people, and so far it seems to be working.
“Everyone who comes shooting has a great time,” Capaldi said.
The gun club has approximately 117 members, including about 12 or 15 women. According
to 22-year-old history major Julia Gygi, before last semester, there were only a couple of female members, but more are joining.
“I’m so psyched that there are going to be more girls,” she said.”I want girls to feel comfortable with guns.”
Julia Gygi is Frederic Gygi’s wife, and is just as involved in the gun club.
“I kind of see myself as a first lady because Fred’s the president,” she said.
Gygi handles the more organizational aspects of the club, including keeping Fred organized. She got involved in shooting when she met Frederic about three years ago.
“He always wanted me to go shooting with him,” Gygi said.
According to her, many women are nervous about guns, and can feel pressured when trying to learn about them, especially in a male dominated atmosphere. That’s why she, and the other club members, focus on teaching all aspects of firearms in a friendly and patient manner.
Nursing student, Molly McAuley, agrees with the importance of supporting female shooters.
“I like to show other women that being a female shooter in a group of experienced male shooters doesn’t have to be an intimidating experience,” she said.
McAuley learned to shoot at an all women’s NRA instructional clinic. According to her, the clinic was a fantastic environment to learn in.
“I try to share that same experience with other female shooters in the club,” McAuley said. “The NMU gun club offers a supportive
environment for both shooting and hunting. I hope more girls come out to the club and give it a try!”
Many people, male and female, are nervous about the dangers of shooting. However, the gun club places a huge emphasis on safety.
“There’s a lot of supervision,” Gygi said.
Along with making sure that all members are trained in proper safety procedures, all shooting outings are supervised by Gygi, who has military experience, or another experienced member. Guest speakers regularly go over safe handling as well.
The Sportsmen Gun Club does not have a set date and time for meetings. If you are interested in joining the gun club, you can get information through the campus announcements.