I sat here for a reason,” says Mike Meacher. “Put me somewhere else, and I’m not a happy camper.”
We’re in the back corner of the dining room of the Mountain Falls Golf Club in Pahrump, Nevada, about an hour west of Las Vegas. A trim man in his 60s, Meacher wears a polo shirt tucked into pressed khakis, a scoped Glock and two magazines on his belt. Over his shoulders, the 18-hole green and water features contrast sharply with the bleak rocks of the Nopah range beyond.
From where he sits, Meacher has a direct view of the entrance and an exit behind him. “If some guy comes in here and tries to stick up the bar, sure, I’ve got a line of sight,” he continues. “But odds are he wouldn’t be that good of a shot, and why would I engage when I could just hightail it out of here instead?”
Meacher is the vice president and chief operating officer of the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute and Resort, the largest private-sector institution of its kind in America. His work involves conjuring the image of such scenarios, encouraging others to be on guard against them, and, not coincidentally, enticing them to travel to Front Sight’s massive complex in the Mojave Desert and pay thousands of dollars to train with guns accordingly. Meacher tells me that in any given year, more than 35,000 people will.
For many gun-rights advocates, firearms ownership isn’t just a constitutional right; it’s a duty that implies obligations and responsibilities. Jeff Cooper, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, was one of the most significant figures for American gun culture in the second half of the 20th century. The father of the “Modern Technique of the Pistol,” Cooper systematized a style of shooting that shaped firearms training across the board—military, civilian, and law enforcement—for decades. For Cooper, who founded a training academy in Arizona, simply owning a gun didn’t cut it; you had to be trained in its use. “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician,” Cooper said. He also postulated a “social duty to resist” violent crime: “Skill-at-arms is everybody’s business. It is the proper concern of all free men. It cannot be left to the public sector.”
Today, Cooper’s words are echoed in countless online forums, pro-gun websites, and gun ads—and after every high-profile mass shooting, calls for Americans to buy guns and prepare to defend themselves proliferate. After the Orlando shooting this past June, Florida news outlets reported not just a drastic increase in gun sales—well over 110 percent from the same period last year—but also a surge in enrollment in firearms-training courses.