Like most people who live in small towns, I notice small changes. When an empty storefront put bars across the windows, I wondered which direction it would go. Jewelry store? Pawn shop? Check cashing service? Was our town’s economy headed up or down? One day, I saw a neon OPEN invitation on the window and a sign proclaiming the arrival of J & K Guns and Stuff. I’m sure some residents saw this as a bad thing. I did not . . .
As you’d expect in rural California – or rural anywhere in America – hunting is a big deal around here. Most women – including your reporter – have their own personal/signature venison recipe. Social events are sparsely attended during hunting season.
Our first – and previously only – firearms emporium is geared towards hunters. It offers a wide selection of hunting rifles and enough blaze orange clothing to warm the hearts of Moms Demanding a Gun Violence Action Day. What it doesn’t offer is an adequate inventory of AR-style rifles or handguns for self-defense, or the gear needed to keep and bear them.
In the great tradition of free market capitalism, J & K’s owners saw an opportunity and placed their bet.
The new store is bare. But it’s not “barren.” They offer lower receivers, some handguns and a few shotguns. Even though the smell of fresh paint and carpet glue was thick in the air, I could tell this wasn’t my grandfather’s gun store.
The owner recognized me from my writing. She asked about women’s options for concealing. I took that opportunity to demonstrate how awesome my belly band is. “WOW! You’re small,” she remarked. “I would have never guessed you carried a gun in here. Not that I mind. I’m just surprised I couldn’t tell.”
So many gun stores condescend towards women, presuming that they need to be told what gun to carry and how to carry it. The idea that a woman might know more than the salesman, or that she has specific needs, doesn’t occur to them. Out comes the pink revolver, a box of hollow-point .38’s and . . . that’s about it.
When it comes to armed self-defense, there are so many variables that a “one size fits all” solution is misleading at best, dangerous at worst. A good gun store is a like a good conversation. Over time, both sides learn about each other; their needs, abilities and aspirations. Together, the salesman and customer figure-out works, what doesn’t work and what might work.
I don’t mind discussing gun rights with gun store salesmen, fellow customers or anyone else. But I don’t go to a gun store to call President Obama a socialist, sneer at criminal scum or prepare for the apocalypse. I go there to find the tools I need to protect myself, my family and my community.
If gun stores want to appeal to women, they need to understand this. More than that, they need to think of us as a resource – not a sleepy-eyed cash cow. We want to be welcomed as the free Americans we are, but treated with the respect we deserve. That we all deserve.
J & K gets it. And that means they’ll get my business.