by: Sheila Rockwell
Looks can be deceiving. For example, at first glance, Gabby Franco doesn’t appear to be a spitfire. The petite, pretty lady with the bright smile and infectious “can-do” attitude seems totally innocuous. But give her just a minute. Go talk to her. Soon, you will realize that all that she does emanates from pure passion, drive, and determination. You will find that though she is small, oh, she is mighty. She wears many hats; a former Olympian, a Sponsored Competitive Shooter for Remington, a wife, and a soon-to-be mom, to name just a few. As evidenced by her huge Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and You Tube followings, she has the ability to draw people in, and once you’ve entered her world, it is easy to see why she is so well-loved; she is engaging, smart, and personable. (She’s a pretty good
shot, too!) And don’t think that others haven’t noticed her ability to reach hundreds of thousands and cross barriers; a recent video that she did as a part of the NRA’s new ad campaign has been circulating the internet and shared countless times. In it, Gabby stands sharply dressed in a blazer, looking professional and polished. Speaking against a solid background with occasional cuts to quick video clips, Gabby speaks passionately about her country of birth—Venezuela—and it’s current awful crime statistics. She doesn’t need flashy graphics—her message is strong enough to stand on it’s own. Gabby briefly explains that citizens of Venezuela had their gun rights taken from them by the government, and as a result, they are now unable to protect themselves from the criminals, who still have weapons. Looking directly into the lens, it is hard to miss the fact that she means business. She lays it all out in simple terms to the viewer that the Second Amendment rights we have as Americans should “Never, ever, be taken for granted.” It is a powerful video.
Gabby has graciously taken the time to speak to TAWS and share her personal story. It follows in the interview below:
TAWS: “When you were first introduced to firearms as a young girl, did you think at that time that you would have a career in the firearms industry? How different is your life today from how you’d imagined it would be?”
GABBY: “No, I never thought about shooting as a career, it was just the sport I loved. At young age my expectations were to be a Olympic medalist and to travel around the world. My life is very different now than what I thought it could be. Before I moved to the USA, I was studying Civil Engineering in Venezuela; I thought I would be involved in the construction industry and definitely not in the firearms industry.”
TAWS: “Can you elaborate a little on your experience as an Olympian? Was it surreal? What was the atmosphere at the Games like? Did you think, at that point, that you’d reached the “pinnacle” of your career as a competitive shooter? What about Top Shot—what was that experience like?”
GABBY: “From a young age I thought that to participate at the Olympic Games you had to be supernatural, a super athlete, and you had to dedicate your life to the sport. I knew I was not supernatural and didn’t considered myself a super athlete but something I perhaps didn’t give myself enough credit for was the dedication, discipline and love I had for the shooting sports. I used to train 6 days a week and approximately 3-4 hours a day
+ dry fire. So when I earned my spot to the Olympic Games I technically didn’t believe it, until the day of the inauguration ceremony, when after walking the stadium I realized that one of my most precious dreams had become true: I was an Olympian!
Top Shot was definitely a different experience from the Olympics, it was fun and exciting but yet stressful and intriguing. Top Shot was perfect for me, because I learned a lot about myself especially in that environment, which was completely out of my comfort zone. Besides the fact we didn’t know what kind of firearms we were going to compete with, in the house we were not able to have books, radio, TV, magazines, Phones, DVD, Ipods, Ipads, and we were not even allowed to leave the house at any time except when we had to go to the range… So yes, I was completely out of my comfort zone.”
TAWS: “As far as shooting accolades go, besides participating in the Olympics, please tell us about your additional accomplishments—and which, if you had to choose, holds the most meaning for you?”
GABBY: “1996 – 2001 – Venezuela National Champion in Air Pistol and Sport Pistol (.22cal)
1997 – Silver Medal – Bolivarian Games / Arequipa, Peru
1998 – Silver Medal – Central American Games / Maracaibo, Venezuela
1998 – Gold Medal – South American Games / Cuenca, Ecuador
1999 – Silver Medal – Pan American Games / Winnipeg, Canada
2000 – 37TH PLACE – Olympic Games / Sydney, Australia
2000 – Gold Medal – South American Games / Lima, PERU
2001 – Gold Medal – Bolivarian Games /Ambato, Ecuador
2001 – 9TH Place – World Cup / Atlanta, GA USA
2002 – 3 Gold Medals – South American Games / Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2011 – Second Place (Limited – D) – USPSA AREA 6 / Frostproof, FL
2012 – First Place (Pistol Women) – 5th Annual Throwin’ lead Rifle and pistol match / Miami, FL
2012 – Match Winner (Scope Rifle) 5th Annual Throwin’ lead Rifle and Pistol Match / Miami, FL
2014 – 3rd Place (Limited – C) – USPSA AREA 6
2015 – High Lady (Limited) – USPSA Florida Open / Frostproof, FL
2015 – 1st Place (Limited – C) – USPSA AREA 4 / Cresson, Texas
2015 – 1st Place (Limited – C) – USPSA AREA 1 / Idaho Falls, ID
2015 – High Lady ( Limited) – USPSA AREA 1 / Idaho Falls, ID
2015 – 1st Place (Limited – C) – USPSA “The Cowtown Classic / Cresson, TX
2015 – 2nd Place Lady (Limited) – USPSA Double Tap Championship / Wichita Falls, TX
2015 – 3rd Lady – NRA World Championship / Glengary, WV
2015 – 4TH overall Lady – USPSA Nationals / Florida Open, Frostproof, FL
And I have a bunch of award/recognitions that involved my extensive curriculum as an Olympic shooter in Venezuela as well as my participation in events with the military and Veterans.
I believe each of these events are important because in each one I had to face different challenges and obstacles that I had to overcome to be successful.”
TAWS: “What drives or motivates you? Was there anyone whom you found to be your inspiration or whom you emulated at the beginning of your career? What about now?”
GABBY: “My parents have always been my inspiration and they still are now. My parents have always showed me with their actions that anything you want to achieve you can reach only if you are willing to work hard for it, and to never give up.
TAWS: “You emigrated from Venezuela to the USA—how old were you at this time and what spurned your move? Did your entire family move with you? Now that you are here, what, in your opinion, is the best part of being a US Citizen?”
GABBY: “I was 22 years old when I decided to move to the USA, and I did it pretty much by myself. My family stayed in Venezuela. Thanks to my successful career as an athlete I was able to apply for an Extraordinary Ability Visa in 2003 which lead me to a become a Permanent resident and later a US Citizen.
To me, it is an honor for me to be a US Citizen. I always thought that the US was the best country in the world to succeed and to make my dreams come true… And I was right, I am living it now!”
TAWS: “How did you become involved with the NRA? Have you received any negative backlash from anti-gunners as a result? If so, how have you handled that?”
GABBY: “I don’t work for the NRA, therefore I don’t have a “position” in the organization. I am just a communicator who can share my experiences through their network; and they value the information I share to all Americans.
I guess it is safe to say that by being a public figure who openly supports the Second Amendment, I always get some kind of backlash from anti-gunners, but it doesn’t bother me. I come from a country where you can get killed by saying what you believe because it goes against the current government, even if what you are saying is right… But now I live in a FREE country and with that I stay strong with my beliefs and my positions about these issues.”
TAWS: “As a representative for Remington and a sponsored competitive shooter, what advice do you have for young girls or ladies who want to start shooting competitively? What about advice for ladies who are afraid to learn to shoot?”
GABBY: “To those who want to start shooting competitively I would tell them to go to the range, learn about the sport and have fun. The shooting community embraces new shooters and is always open to help others, so by going to the range they will find several shooters willing to help out and even willing to coach you so you keep learning and getting better at this wonderful sport.
To those who are afraid to learn to shoot, I would say, “Eliminate from your vocabulary the word FEAR”, it is amazing how most people let their fear lead them to failure. Knowledge is power and that power you get only by learning.”
TAWS: “What gave you the idea to write your first book, “Troubleshooting”, and how has it been received? Tell us about any plans or release dates for future publications.”
GABBY: “I love to teach, I love making people shoot better than ever not only once but consecutively, so even though there are many publications about how to improve shooting accuracy most of them are over 200+ pages. I wanted something simple, something the shooters could take with them at the range and even keeping it inside their shooting range bag as a reference when they practice.
People really liked my book because is simple, concise and it is small enough they can take with them to the range. Not only that, but readers have improved their shooting skills by reading my book and applying the technique the way I explain it.
I am working on another book, which is more personal… an autobiography and the name is “No Weakness Allowed””
TAWS: “What can someone expect from you as a firearms instructor? What do you like best about teaching? What do you dislike?”
GABBY: “Strength and dedication. I am not easy when it comes to instructing and those who have taken classes with me know that. The reason is that I don’t let my students to become complacent with their shooting, especially when we know that they are making mistakes. I push them to work hard, I push them to become great shooters and at the end of the day they see the results.
I love to teach not only how to become a better shooter, but I believe in making everyone we touch a better individual. Sometimes it is about to overcome their internal fears, sometimes it is about to change their negative thinking or just showing them that they can do better!
What I don’t like is the risk that comes with being a firearms instructor, like unfortunately I have had students touching their firearms as I am in the line of fire even though they were told not to do so. Everything involves risks but the risk that I put myself into when giving classes is sometimes uncomfortable. Please note that those incidents have happened just a couple of times but I am always aware of the risk.”
TAWS: “If you could change something about the current firearms industry, what would it be?”
GABBY: “I believe the firearms industry is going in the right direction and even though is not perfect, it is just doing great. I think what we all need to do is help change the image politicians and the mainstream media have given to the shooting industry. We have people who protect themselves, people are hunters and at the same time are avid protectors of the environment and the wild. We have Olympians and athletes. There is so much positive and that is to me the most important thing to change.”
TAWS: “It must be very difficult to balance your competitive shooting career, your work, and family/home life. How do you do it? What do you do to relax?”
GABBY: “Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but when you do what you love, you go to bed a bit tired but then you wake up excited for another amazing day, or an amazing adventure, or just ready to have fun at the range. I am not going to say that all the time is like that, but what keeps me going are my goals, my husband who gives me amazing support and now that I am pregnant is just the thought that for a little person (my son) I will be someone he will be looking up to, I will be his guidance, his hero, his love and for that reason I have to be the best I can be.
I love crafts, so I paint ceramic, I do crochet, I love DIY projects, and take a lot of naps… That is how I get relaxed!”
TAWS: “Rumor has it that you can tear up the dance floor! What kind of dance is your favorite? Did you take instruction/lessons?”
GABBY: “LOL! I know I should probably apply for “Dancing with The Stars”! I actually have danced since I can remember. I cannot say that all Hispanics love to dance, but in my family pretty much all of us do so it is in my genes. I love to dance pretty much anything that is a happy music: Merengue, Salsa, Bachata, Regueton, etc. I don’t take lessons for those types of dance but I have taken lessons to learn something I really love: Flamenco!
(You can find an old video of Gabby dancing with her teacher at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYQ-yXOhs9Q)
TAWS: “What do you think is the most important issue facing Americans in this election year?”
GABBY: “It is hard to say, I think if we isolate one issue thinking is the most important then we fail because there will be more that are more that combined can change drastically the direction of our country in a negative way. So to me these are the most important issues:
– National security and strengthening the Armed forces.
– Protection of our second amendment.
– Strengthen our economy
– Work on unifying our society.
….Just to mention a few…
TAWS: “Tell us about your future plans/goals/aspirations?”
GABBY: “Being the best mom I could possibly be! Finish my new book. Have my own line of clothes. Having gun ranges and gun shops carry my books in their stores for sale.”
TAWS: “What else would you like our readers to know about you?”
GABBY: “I don’t know, I guess after reading this they will know a lot about me!! LOL!
Perhaps, I can say that I love adventures and the adrenaline rush, just like I felt when I zip lined (1,200 feet above Arkansas River) at the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado
(You can view video at https://www.instagram.com/p/–IUIyF50X/?taken-by=gabbyfrancots4)
TAWS: “Gabby, thank you so very much for sharing with us! We wish you all the best and can’t wait to see your beautiful baby. Congratulations on all of your much-deserved success. You are an inspiration!”