There are few things that come to mind that are more American than an immigrant coming to this country to fulfill their dreams. After all, we are a nation built on the backs of immigrants. So when I went searching for my first biopic I wanted to tell a story of someone defying the odds. I wanted that classic American tale of someone coming to this country, looking to fulfill their dreams, and achieving them. When I first reached out to Gabby Franco, I knew a little bit about her backstory. What I didn’t know — and was about to find out — was that Franco’s story was one that required incredible mental toughness and discipline to survive here.
Gabby Franco warming up for a match in her new sport, USPSA (Photo: Mikon Haaksman)
Franco was born in Venezuela and grew up shooting air pistol, eventually earning herself a spot on the 2000 Olympic team. I knew air pistols existed before I met her, but I hadn’t known how much intense focus and discipline it takes to compete on an international level. She told me about her coaches, Otar and Guillermo, who taught her how to shoot like an Olympic athlete. Like many great coaches, their advice didn’t end on the playing field. Otar was “no excuses, but in his way of no excuses” she told me. “He would always say ‘OK you don’t want to do it, that’s OK, there is someone who is willing to’ and that really stuck with me.” This is a true statement that can be applied to nearly any sport, discipline, or industry. Put in the work or move out of the way because there will always be someone behind you pushing to take your spot. Franco recognized this and trained tirelessly to make her way to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Gabby Franco, left, with coach Otar (Photo: Mikon Haaksman)
But it was her other coach, Guillermo, who opened her eyes to what was happening in her country all around her. By the time Hugo Chavez took power in 1999, Guillermo had already been saying that “Chavez was just like Castro, and he was going to do the same thing that Castro did in Cuba” and he should’ve known since he was a Cuban national. This played a part in opening Franco’s eyes to the realities of what her country was going through and where it was headed. When it came time to get ready and go to Athens for the 2004 Olympic games, she decided to hang up the air pistol and move to the United States. “I didn’t see a future in a country where little by little the government was stripping away peoples rights,” she said.
Today, in Venezuela, the socialist revolution has reached it’s breaking point. There are riots for food and people don’t trust the government. But what are people to do there? “Ordinary citizens cannot own firearms, only the criminals and the government owns guns now,” Franco said. This is why she’s such a staunch advocate for the 2nd Amendment and what it stands for. She explained how the government started little by little to take away people’s right to own a firearm, starting with ammo restrictions.
“When I got here and saw that you could own a gun for self-defense, I thought ‘this is brilliant’ who wouldn’t want this?” she said. Well, unfortunately there are many people who either don’t see what has happened in countries like Venezuela, or simply refuse that the same thing can happen here. I think they are mistaken, with our gun rights go our ability to make any real fight back against the government.
Gabby Franco fulfilled another dream when she made it to two seasons of Top Shot. (Photo: Mikon Haaksman)
Franco’s story started out as a classic American tale of an immigrant coming to this country to fulfill their dreams. What it turned into for me was another reaffirmation that we must never give up our fight for 2A rights. She proved to me that anything is possible in this country, including losing our freedoms and rights, if we aren’t careful and fighting for what we believe. I applaud her for what she has done for fighting the good fight, she calls herself a 2A guardian, and I couldn’t agree more. I hope that this story will shed light on what it takes to become the best at something while also exposing how dangerously close we can be to having our precious freedoms stripped away.