Although he is surrounded by them every day, Juan Bell is not a huge fan of guns. But he does love law and order, and he prides himself on being an expert on firearm safety.
Bell is training director at The Marksman, a business located off Industrial Park Drive in Newport News. The Marksman is a firearms training center that has an indoor range and also a retail side that sells an array of guns. Bell has been at The Marksman since 2011.
A wide range of customers come to The Marksman, some seeking a concealed weapons permit, others wanting to enroll in gun safety classes, and then there are those court ordered to take a class in gun safety. The range is also a popular place for people just wanting to hone their shooting skills.
“I love people and teaching them,” Bell says. “I tell people at the beginning of class, no question is stupid. I enjoy working with them.”
Bell is a natural student. He studies the law and is always doing research. He has two degrees from ECPI: one in criminal justice and another in homeland security.
“You have to keep up,” Bell says of the constantly changing laws. “You always need to learn more. Shooting a gun is easy, but making sure the education you have is going to keep you out jail is what it’s all about.”
Steven Martin, who trained at The Marksman and is a security consultant, says that Bell is at the top of his game. “The training here is the best,” Martin says. “To me, Juan is very knowledgeable. He stays on top of things. When it comes to training of officers, you can’t beat this place. Truly, it’s one of the best.”
Bell, who also owns a bail bond business in Fredericksburg, first came to The Marksman for training when the laws changed concerning bail bondsman and weapons. “The only place that taught it was here,” he says.
Bell became acquainted with the manager and owner, and he was eventually offered a position. He has been at the business ever since. Bell debates issues and tells people the faults in their thinking when it comes to weapons and shooting. He looks at all sides and is able to parse out the legalities of them. Bell says his mother is fond of telling him that he should have been an attorney.
Bell says he often witnesses his students having “light-bulb moments” during training, where they rethink their viewpoints based on what Bell has told them about laws and rulings.
The Marksman partners with the Department of Criminal Justice and Security Institute of Virginia to offer classes that meet the highest standards. Many of the customers hear about The Marksman through word of mouth.
“We have a very diverse crowd,” he says.
Owning a gun is a huge responsibility, Bell says. He emphasizes that to students all the time. He is constantly educating people about the right and wrong way to handle and use a weapon. He also runs through many scenarios and tries his best to teach people how to handle them if they are armed. There is a lot of thought and evaluation that must go through someone´s mind before they pull a trigger, he says. Bell works hard to ensure they understand all consequences of what will happen if they fire the gun.
“People come here with their own thoughts and misconceptions, and I always ask them if they are prepared to go to jail over this problem,” Bell says. In fact, he keeps an eye on the news to make sure none of his students are the ones being arrested for shootings or firearms violations. “I’m always looking to see if they came through me,” he says. So far, his students have all been on the right side of the law. That, he says, can be attributed to proper training.
Bell believes strongly that everyone who owns a firearm should complete training for safe and thoughtful use. “It all comes down to education,” he says. “By simply learning, you could have just saved someone’s life, or kept someone from getting hurt.”
Bell has a plethora of knowledge about the laws and guns and enjoys teaching people about them, but he is not a strong proponent of weapons.
“However, everyone should be able to walk away from a situation without shooting,” he says.
TO THE POINT:
Address: 520 Industrial Park Dr., Newport News, VA 23608
Contact: Juan Bell, training director