Did you know that all this month, the USCCA is recognizing and celebrating women? I am so lucky to have met, trained with, worked alongside and learned from some of the most amazing ladies in our industry. And although the task was not simple, I’ve narrowed a long list down to five of the most influential women to highlight for the month. I’ve given them a handful of questions to ponder and answer. Their backgrounds, experiences, talents and careers may be completely different, but their mission is the same: to share support of our Second Amendment and the right to protect what we love.

Gabby Franco: Olympian, Firearms Instructor and Competitive Shooter

It’s been pretty incredible to share stories and inspiration from industry leaders such as Dianna Muller, Emily Valentine and Dawn Hillyer. And in this post, I am so honored to be sharing from Gabby Franco, Olympian, firearms instructor and competitive shooter. As a child of an immigrant (from Norway), I was instantly drawn to Gabby’s story … and to her powerful perspective on — and appreciation for — our unique rights and freedoms. And although she and I always joke about our height differences, her shorter stature doesn’t even begin to capture her big personality and her even bigger influence. I am so glad to know this woman and to call her a friend.

In my book, you are an important influencer in the firearms industry. Who do you feel is your audience, and what are your most significant messages to them?

I speak to everyone who believes in freedom and self-actualization. Most people believe that freedom lies in a series of written words that allow them to feel free. However, they can be erased, changed and interpreted in different ways from one generation to another. People who genuinely believe in freedom are generally self-actualized individuals who understand their power over their destiny, actions and freedom.

We agree that the government exists to manage the functions of our country, which means politicians are [neither] our rulers nor our saviors. Hence, the most important message I transmit is the confirmation of the negative implications of gun control that my personal experience in Venezuela taught me. People understand that having the right tool when seconds matter is the difference between life [and] death. And I speak to the audience clearly and factually to make them reflect on their role[s] and responsibilities as active members of society.

What has been one of your best success stories or proudest moments?

I think one of my success stories is the fact that I left everything behind in Venezuela to come to the U.S. I considered moving to the United States in the year 2000 when my then-boyfriend moved to the U.S. He insisted that I should follow his steps, something I ignored for two years. Then I began to see the erosions of freedoms the new socialist government was causing and I thought, “How good is it to win medals, have a college degree and not have freedom?” Consciously or not, I believe my parents raised my siblings and me to become self-actualized individuals. Thus, I decided to move to the United States when I saw that the new regime became a barrier between a bright future and myself.

Talk about a failure or a “miss” you experienced. What did you learn from it?

My divorce in 2010 is perhaps one of [the most], if not the most, difficult experiences for me. I always believed in being married forever and growing older with my husband. But my ex showed tendencies that did not align with faithfulness and trust, signs I ignored and tried to forgive and forget. However, deep inside, I never did. My insecurities grew stronger, and I became harsh and unhappy. One day, he told me he needed “time” and asked to stay away for a few months. I was heartbroken. However, after I asked my mom for her advice, I said to my ex that he could go, but we would not be a couple anymore.

During the same time, I lost my job and found myself unemployed and submerged in debt. I felt helpless and desperate. I cried daily for hours, feeling sorry for myself and my situation. Until one day, I said, “No more crying, no more blaming. More doing.” Even though I was under the same circumstances, I felt as if a dark cloud moved and let the sun warm my heart and dry … my tears. That day, I asked what Gabby the shooter would do if she made a bad shot while competing? She would 1) forget about the bad shot, 2) ease her mind, 3) visualize what she needs to do to make a perfect shot and 4) believe she can do it. That experience taught me that I am responsible for EVERYTHING that happens in my life. Here a few of the things I learned:

  • People you cannot trust are not worth your time; leave them. I didn’t trust my ex-husband, yet I decided to stay with him. I paid for this decision with time I will never get back.
  • Do not let others affect you emotionally. His indifference toward me and our relationship changed my attitude and made me unhappy. I let him get to me and affect my happiness.
  • Accept responsibility. While I can mention many things I believe my ex did wrong, I acknowledge that I probably did not express my emotions clearly, and my distrust and harsh attitude toward him did not help improve our relationship.
  • There are ALWAYS choices. I could have stayed in a corner feeling helpless and sad. But then I realized that with such an attitude, I was digging a hole for my tomb. I chose to feel helpless once, but I also decided to do something for myself to better my situation.
  • No excuses.

Which people, organizations, training or books have had the most influence on your growth — and why?

The list is long, but here are the most important ones:

  1. My parents have had the most influence on me. My dad worked during his childhood because his family was poor. However, the lack of education did not stop him from becoming a business owner as an adult. I learned from him that I [and not my circumstances] am responsible for my successes and failures. My mom was a high school teacher until she began to work with my dad in the business. She would bring my siblings and me to the company during vacations from middle school to teach some employees and their children how to write and read. My mom taught us to be compassionate, humble and thankful.
  2. My Olympic shooting trainers. They taught me the meaning of resiliency, hard work and never giving up. They would not let me ignore my failures nor exaggerate my successes. Both were also instrumental in my success as an athlete as well as an entrepreneur.
  3. Self-development books. One of my favorite authors is Jack Canfield, but I have also read several books written by Louise Hay, Stephen Covey, Napoleon Hill, Abraham Maslow, Bob Rotella, David Hawkins and George Clason, to mention a few.

What keeps you going when things get tough?

Before I had my son, it was self-talk that went something like this, “I am not gonna let it ruin me; I am strong!” Or something like, “Are you gonna cave in so easily? No ma’am! Get up and do something about it!” I don’t let my mind get too comfortable or sad. My self-talk is very intense because it keeps me in the “here and now,” not in the dreamy world of sadness and desperation.

After I had my son, all I think is, how dare I tell my son to get up when he falls if I cannot do that on my own? How can I be a better example to him if I am not willing to sweat the small stuff or get tough when life demands it? I believe in leading by example, and that means doing my very best in everything I do, no matter the circumstances. There is always a way!

What are some goals for you and/or for your organization/business?

Again, the list is long.

Personal Goals:

  • Get my degree in marketing and graduate with honors (hopefully summa cum laude) from college by 2022.
  • Become a motivational speaker.
  • Win a national championship.
  • Write a book about a time in my life that can inspire others, such as pursuing the American Dream, being an athlete and Olympian, overcoming divorce, being on the show Top Shot, finding the beauty in 18 countries I have visited and working on my “human project” (my son!).

Business Goals:

  • Continue a series of instructional books. My first one is TroubleShooting: Mastering Your Pistol Marksmanship.
  • Teach more at [law enforcement] agencies about improving their shooting skills through mindset.
  • Continue to be a voice to protect and defend the Second Amendment and our Constitution.