The City of Arms

By Ignacio Carrión
Pictures by Carlos Serrano
El Pais Semanal
April 2, 2000

Welcome to Gun City, a vacation destiny. In the heart of the state of Nevada, not too far from Las Vegas, a city designed for gun powder lovers.

Gun City. The city of arms. Does this seem to you like a paradise? You need to see it. We will wait for you with a gun in our hand and open arms. Highway 160 in route to Los Angeles. You can't miss it. Right behind it, Las Vegas. You can drive very fast. There is very little traffic at dawn. Bring your gun along. You don't have one? I am not surprised. Europe is way behind. That obsession to disarm the population. We will fix it. No problem. We have an arsenal. We will loan you what you need. Guns. Rifles. Did I talk to you about our very successful intensive submachine guns training?

Ignatius Piazza - the title of Doctor is from his former chiropractic practice - he is 40 years old. He used to be a chiropractor in Santa Cruz. Native Californian in a paramilitary fashion. Energetic. Authoritarian. One day, he was a witness to a street shooting. He got scared. He then told himself: I will learn how to shoot. I will build a city like an oasis in the desert. No criminal will dare to enter it.

I carefully followed the Doctor’s instructions

I was approaching Gun City, as if I were stepping over eggs. I was not attacked by sand whirls. Although I felt a mysterious force surrounding and pushing in front of my car. In effect, I could hear shots from the depths of an uneven and dry territory. I looked over the window to wave my white cloth as a signal of peace. No one came to greet me. But the shots did not stop. Should I continue? Should I invoke Piazza’s name in desperation?

In front of a big white tent surrounded by vehicles, dressed in dark colors, were the instructors. Monumental hats, huge boots. Big guns hanging off their belts. Dark glasses. Combat uniforms. Piazza stood in the middle with a Glock on his hip.

People from both sexes and different ages, but looking alike with all the different type of armament on them, were forming groups and followed the instructors directions. First, you had to sign disclaimer forms that would exonerate Piazza and his crew from any responsibility. I signed mine. My signature was witnessed by another signatory. We all had a clear and visible name tag, names that are easy to remember: Sean, Dellie, Red, Chelly, Kirk. We had the tags on our hats. On our backs. In this practical, simple, and American way, Dr. Piazza and his instructor team could communicate with each one of us as if they knew us all our lives.

The instructors were retired policemen, martial arts teachers, or specialists in firearms training. Piazza had recruited them to train the candidates to become Arm Citizens at Gun City. Dr. Piazza was a seasoned shooter, a wise promoter of real estate. And within this inseparable combination of home and machine gun, real fire and apartment, kitchen knife and bayonet resided the original commercial project.

The only thing that made me shake were those cold winds of the Nevada desert. I asked myself in anguish if in these conditions I could point the gun and empty the chamber. This was the only condition Piazza gave me.

As we were improving, I was able to notice the other students and how they inserted their bullets in their chambers. Many of them did it without looking. Quickly and automatically, Piazza was on top of the people, he reminded individuals that lead is more valuable than gold.

He stood by my side and checked that I had the belt that was carrying the gun properly adjusted. He looked at me with his shinny eyes and said: "You will see, you will see", he repeated, "you will see how everyone will hit the targets at the 20 meter distance. Look at the little boy".

Indeed, the boy was there. A nine year old boy. His name was Knyte and accompanying his mother. Her name was Tina. Tina said that she was proud of Knyte because he had a promising future. "We bought his first gun when he was six. He is a phenomenon."

He was indeed. Before the rest of us would close our eyes to point, the little boy was in position with his knee on the ground.

During a break, I asked the little boy Knyte if this was more fun than playing cops and robbers with his friends, or watching TV. He looked at me uninterested. He said no. He said that once you taste real fire, it is no longer fun to play cops and robbers with fake guns.

I then asked Dr. Piazza about the shootings in the schools. The security detectors that have been necessary are implemented in some schools. If children like shooting, will they kill? Doesn't this worry you?

Dr. Piazza’s answer is emphatically "No." The doctor knows that the best and quickest defense against a killer is a law-abiding, armed, and trained citizen, even if that citizen is a 9-year old boy. He has no patience with people who are paranoid about the freedom to sell arms. To promote his city, he is starting to build a Personalities Pavilion. In this pavilion there will be luxury suites available for Hollywood stars, singers, artists, politicians, etc.

Two students in the class, Sims and Reid, black policemen, were happily spending their savings here. Nice environment, they said. They did not have enough training in their department. That is how things go.

Sitting with his head looking down and amused, a 26 year old German participant from Bremen was looking at the barrel of gun trying to find out if the steel had been manufactured in his country or in the Empire of the Rising Sun. He continued his shooting with a couple of Chinese merchants that had repeatedly been assaulted in their shops and that was the reason for them being there.

An old couple from Pahrump was perhaps the couple that best represented the community in Gun City. They had thought to emigrate to Tenerife because there, they said, there was almost no crime. Several reasons kept them in Nevada, where they had been assaulted four times and robbed in their own house. What to do until their new neighborhood in Gun City was completed? Arm up to the bones and be ready to receive the robbers with guns.