ISSUE 1476 Thursday 10 June 1999

Trigger-happy are targets of Wild West developer

By John Hiscock in Front Sight, Nevada

FRONT SIGHT is the world's first luxury residential resort catering for gun enthusiasts. Unofficially known as Gun City, the 550-acre gated community in the Nevada desert is being developed along the lines of a golf resort, with firing ranges instead of fairways.

The project has met with criticism from anti-gun groups, but its supporters say it is a welcome addition to America's recreational resorts and will boost the image of gun enthusiasts. First Sight's founder and developer, Dr Ignatius Piazza said: "We're not building a compound for gun nuts. We're building a world-class resort property."

His plans for the £16 million project have the blessing of local planning authorities The planning commissioner, Tom Riley, says: "Instead of the 19th hole, they've got the bullet hole." When it is completed by the end of next year the community of Front Sight - named after the sight on a gun barrel usually called the foresight - will have 12 firing ranges, an indoor video training simulator building, defensive driving track, armoury, a gunsmith's workshop, martial arts gymnasium and a pro shop.

A £125,000 platinum membership includes a home site near the firing ranges and unlimited gun use. Less expensive memberships include gun training classes and the use of other club facilities. There will also be 170 houses, 350 flats, shops, a church and a school where, says Dr Piazza, "the emphasis will be on the arts - martial arts". Streets will have gun-related names such as Barrel Boulevard, Trigger Avenue and even a Second Amendment Drive - named after the section of the American Constitution giving citizens the right to bear arms.

Until Front Sight is completed Dr Piazza is offering free sub-machinegun training courses to attract members. So far this year more than 2,000 prospective buyers, mostly recruited through gun clubs across America, have attended the course and expressed interest in returning. "We are already planning similar communities in other parts of America," said Dr Piazza, a former chiropractor who says he became interested in guns in 1988 after a drive-by shooting disrupted his neighbourhood. He opened a firing range near Bakersfield in California and then, with a group of investors, bought the land in Nevada, 60 miles from Las Vegas and at the end of a four-mile sand track.

Dr Piazza's philosophy is that the more skills a citizen has with a gun the less likely he or she will be to use it unnecessarily. He said: "You can see from the people taking this class that they are all responsible gun users. They take it very seriously and they want to improve their skills. We offer training that exceeds that of law enforcement officials."

Front Sight will also include a celebrity training section which Dr Piazza hopes will attract film stars, politicians and executives. But not everyone is enthused by Dr Piazza's plans. Eric Gorovitz is the policy director of the Bell Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in San Francisco which campaigns for stricter gun-control laws, he said: "My initial reaction is that if Front Sight gets the gun nuts out of my town and into the Nevada desert, than I am all for it.

"But I am frightened by the idea of these fanatics who want a life together in a commune that focuses on guns. Also, presumably there will be children going to school and growing up there in this Wild West town and that to me is very scary."