Family shoots for TV role in show about Second Amendment

Edward WIlks, who owns a gun store and operates a shooting school in Rifle, instructs son, Ethan, 9. Wilks is continuing a family tradition -  his grandfather taught him and his mother how to shoot.

Edward Wilks talks about handguns with his family, from left, Miriam, Ethan, Max and Amelia, who is being held by Edward’s wife, Gloria. The Rifle-area family is among 10 finalists for “Americana 2,” a television series about families that embrace the Second Amendment.

RIFLE—Eleven-year-old Miriam Wilks has no doubts about what she wants to do when she grows up.

“I want to take over my dad’s store and hopefully do everything he does now,” she said.

That Miriam’s dad, Edward Wilks, owns a gun store and operates a shooting school is one clue that the two are part of a not entirely ordinary family. Guns are a big part of the lives of Edward and Gloria Wilks and their children, which has helped land them among 10 finalists for “Americana 2,” a documentary-type television series on families that embrace the Second Amendment.

It will be produced by Firecracker Films, which is responsible for Discovery’s “Daredevil” series and Animal Planet’s “Stranger Among Bears.”

“We are exploring a rich and vital piece of Americana for a revelatory, heartfelt docu-series,” Mark Soldinger, chief executive officer for Firecracker Films, said in a news release. “The show will remind the viewer what it means to be American — where Americans come from, what Americana is all about, and what is really worth fighting for.”

When it comes to a passion for guns and the right to own them, Edward Wilks holds his own, and his passion has rubbed off on his family. He taught his wife how to shoot on one of their first dates, he said.

“He would take me out and go shooting, and he would do different drills with me,” Gloria Wilks said.

“As soon as we got married, I gave her her own gun,” her husband said. “She absolutely fell in love with it.”

Now Gloria Wilks owns four guns.

Their children get their own first gun when they are 3, and thus begins a careful process of teaching them proper gun handling, and eventually shooting.

“By the time they’re 5 or 6 they’ve gotten quite proficient in shooting,” Edward Wilks said.

The couple has three other children: Ethan, 9; Amelia, 4; and Max, 2.

Miriam isn’t yet allowed to shoot on her own; Wilks said that won’t happen until she’s 14. But already she is an incredible shot, he said, as he showed off videos he has made of her demonstrating her skills on a home shooting range on the family’s 80 acres outside Rifle. An accomplished combat pistol shooter, she is training to be an instructor at his school, with a focus on working with other children.

Police background

Starting early in gun instruction is nothing new in the Wilks family. Wilks said he was “very young” when his grandfather, Lynn Hill, first taught him to shoot. Hill, who owned a gas station in Rifle and was a Garfield County commissioner, gave the same lessons to Edward’s mother, Sue Hill Wilks.

“My dad gave me a .22 when I was 9 and taught me how to use it,” said Sue Wilks, who lives with her son and his family.

Edward Wilks’ father worked as a Department of Defense contractor. Although he went to school in the Rifle area for a few years, Wilks spent many of his young years in places including Puerto Rico, California and Spain, where he served on a Mormon mission.

He met Gloria in California when she was 19 and he was 21. They were engaged 12 days later and married within two months. But Wilks bridled at California’s strict gun laws, and they moved to Colorado.

He got a job as a Rifle police dispatcher, then as a deputy in the Garfield County Jail, and after going through the police academy he ended up becoming a New Castle police sergeant.

In 2005, he jumped at the opportunity to buy a pawn shop in downtown Rifle. The store, the Tradesmen (phone number: 625-GUNS) also is a full-service gun store in a city with a gun for its name. In addition, Wilks teaches people of all ages basic and advanced shooting techniques, concealed-weapons-permit classes, and advanced self-defense and tactical shooting for handguns, shotguns and rifles.

“Women right now are a huge student base,” said Wilks, who’s a staunch believer in the difference guns make in personal safety.

“Firearms are used 2.6 million times a year to stop crime and violence, most often without a single shot ever being fired,” he said.

“I have students who have shot attackers,” he added.

Those students “are alive today because they took my class and they paid attention,” Wilks said.

Stereotypes, misinformation

Colorado’s permissive gun laws contribute to a low crime rate, he said.

Without the Second Amendment, he contends, none of the others would be possible.

“Hitler would not have invaded America because of everybody having firearms,” he said.

Wilks said he was alerted to the casting call for the coming television show by friends, and he hadn’t previously had an interest in having his family participate in a TV show.

“However, let’s be honest, we see it as a good opportunity to be on television and try to be a good influence and a source of positive, beneficial information for the public,” he said.

Wilks said it could be a good opportunity to counter stereotypes and misinformation. However, he said, if his family is picked and he sees any signs that they’ll be presented in a negative way, he’ll end the filming.

Other rules also would apply to filmmakers.

“You’re not going to disrupt date night or family night or any of that stuff,” he said.

Family night is Monday night for the family. Fridays are date nights for Wilks and his wife. And every night includes chores, prayers and Scripture readings for this family, which likewise sets aside Sundays for church and spending time together.

This is a family with priorities, and one of its biggest is guns.

That’s evidenced by that .22 that Wilks’ mom got from his grandfather. She since has passed it on to him, and Wilks already knows where the family heirloom is headed next.

“I will give it someday to Miriam,” he said.

As he said that, his pride in his sharp-shooting eldest child, and aspiring business successor, was evident.


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