TTAG reader Ripcord writes:
Riverdale, Illinois is a small village on Chicago’s south side in Cook County. With just over 15,000 people and 3.75 square miles of land, its not very big. It’s also 93% black according to the last census. If the name Riverdale tugs at your memory it might be because it’s home to Chuck’s Gun Shop, a store that has drawn an underserved rap from anti-gunners and the media friends. Chucks sits on a main thoroughfare next to a vacant lot and a sometimes-occupied tax business. You know, the kind where people dress up in costumes stand outside with placards and offer t-shirts to have them do your taxes . . .
The store has been there for decades. And Chuck’s is a family-run mom and pop gun store. You get buzzed inside, there are a half dozen cases with handguns in them and some rifles on the racks behind them. The total retail space may be 1000 square feet. Hardly a Cabela’s. In the back there is a small range with 6 or 8 bays. People can practice there and several instructors use it to train and qualify people for concealed carry.
It’s in a neighborhood that a lot of gun owners might not seek out. It’s out for the way for many others.
If you believed all the ad hominem attacks that have appeared in newspapers and anti-gunners’ press releases, you’d think not a background check was been done nor a 4473 filled out as guns left the store by the wheelbarrow load.
What’s actually been leaving the store, though, are NRA members, specifically new ones. A couple of months ago, at the fall NRA board meeting, the owners of Chuck’s were invited. The reason was simple; Chuck’s gun shop was the Top NRA recruiter in the nation in 2014. Stop for a minute and let that sink in. A gun store in a black neighborhood on Chicago’s south side was the NRA’s top recruiter. They sold more NRA memberships than any other store in the country.
They did it in a town for which the median household income was $38,321 and 16.6% of families and 18.4% of the population are below the poverty line.
The award didn’t go to some shop in Texas. Or Missouri, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Alabama. It went to one that is essentially behind enemy lines and fighting for survival every day they’re open. The City of Chicago under former Mayor Daley tried running sting operations. No one at Chuck’s was even charged.
Anti-gunners have tried suing them out of existence using the public nuisance theory and lost in our state supreme court. They tried passing more restrictive village ordinances under a hostile administration and they kept their doors open. They’ve been slandered and even had public death threats from a catholic priest. There are regular protests by anti-gunners, and yet Chuck’s is still there. Maybe that’s why anti-gunners filed a lawsuit against the village and a couple of others charging violations of Illinois’ civil rights act for not putting enough regulations on Chuck’s. A suit the village has vowed to fight.
For some time TTAG has written about how gun owners and the NRA need to expand our ranks. How we need to reach out to minorities and the younger crowd, to shirk the image of the OFWG in camo. The NRA, to their credit, has found some great spokesmen to reach out to new generations and Colion Noir does excellent work with his wit, charm and spot-on commentary.
If there is a light in the end of the tunnel for gun owners, though, it can be found at Chuck’s. And that light is also the train that could flatten anti-gunners.
What does it say when a gun shop located in a community that is 90%+ minority is the top NRA dealer recruiter for the year? And here’s another bit of trivia, it’s not the first time. They’ve done it at least two other times. In an age of big box and boutique gun stores you’d think that the Bass Pros and Dick’s and Academys of the world would be dominating NRA recruitment. You would think that with all their foot traffic customers doing their the latest Obama panic shopping, someone else would be king of that mountain.
But they aren’t. It was a little gun shop that has sat on a blighted street for the past 40 years, run by a guy who has been continually kicked in the nuts and always gets back up. Recently, the county passed a tax on all ammunition sold as another attempt to run them out of business.
Through it all, they keep selling NRA memberships. They keep getting people to support the largest 2A rights organization in the country. And they do it in an area and demographic most people think would belong to the other side.
If Chuck’s shows us what’s possible, it also casts a long shadow over others. We know that in a nation of more than 300 million guns and 100 million gun owners, the NRA has a membership of only five million. Certainly we haven’t recruited all the gun owners is Texas or Missouri. And we need too. For if one little gun store outside Chicago can sell over 2000 NRA memberships, what are all the rest doing?