Is Your Local Gun Shop Helping or Hurting the Cause?
Piper facilitating a CCW application workshop at Gunfighter Tactical
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Over the last few years my involvement in the 2A community has been quite enlightening. One of the realities I have become more and more aware of is that our tendencies as human beings to engage in petty rivalries, competition, and back-stabbing is alive and well within the 2A community.

While this really shouldn’t be all that surprising and is to be expected anytime you have large groups of people involved in an inherently politically-charged field of business and activism, we truly need to do a better job of remembering the bigger picture.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but WE DO NOT HAVE THE NUMBERS TO AFFORD DIVISIVE INTERNAL BICKERING. Our anti 2A opponents are much more willing to work hand-in-hand with just about any group, business, politician, donor, agency, media outlet, etc. that will support their cause.

Meanwhile here in the pro-2A camp we’re quick to tear each other apart because not everyone agrees on immigration policy/handgun caliber/heath care/the NRA/victimless crimes/abortion/libertarianism/conservatism etc.

Is Your Local Gun Shop Helping or Hurting the Cause?

We’ve all seen the Facebook groups, the forum boards, the comments sections of articles where huge groups of us who agree about the importance of preserving and protecting the Second Amendment devolve into hours/days/years of tearing each other apart on all these other issues. It sows division, it causes exhaustion, and it pushes many to feel uncomfortable with the idea of getting more personally involved in the fight to protect our civil rights.

Here in southern California there’s a local firearms shop that goes so far above and beyond to support the big picture 2A cause that they’re absolutely deserving of special mention. Gunfighter Tactical, locally known as GFT is owned and operated by Ryan Peterson and Lee Moiseve.

GFT was the first shop to reach out with an offer of support after I formed Armed Equality. That offer of assistance was so clear and unequivocal that it blew most of the other initial responses I received out of the water. I have since built fantastic relationships with many other shops and instructors, but GFT will always have a warm place in my heart for being the first to step up.

Is Your Local Gun Shop Helping or Hurting the Cause? Gunfighter Tactical

Personally I strongly support shops that have a “No LE Only” policy because it shows me that they’re willing to put principle over profit. In the context of the Founders’ basis for the Second Amendment, this policy shows me we’re on the same page. The state should always fear the people, never the other way around. (This is very important here in CA where LE gets access to nearly any firearm they like and the citizens only get access to CA DOJ approved “on roster” firearms.)

Is Your Local Gun Shop Helping or Hurting the Cause? Gunfighter Tactical

Gunfighter Tactical is where my girlfriend and I bought our first carry pistols (matching Smith & Wesson Shields) and where she bought her first firearm a few years ago (a Springfield XD). Not only have they hosted Armed Equality RTBAV, RSO, and CCW events after hours in their shop at no charge, they even designed and printed handouts (without our asking) for us to distribute at local LGBT events.

They’ve gone out of their way to bring in non-traditional demographic first-time shooters to their shop where all are treated well, never shunned/mocked or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable (actions that many shops still engage in).

Gunfighter also often hosts San Diego County Gun Owners monthly meetings at their own expense and have donated thousands of dollars worth of firearms and accessories to SDCGO fundraisers and social events.

I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom “to give the shirt off one’s back.” Well a few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were planning to attend our first firearm training event, solely as students without the distraction of also being the event facilitators. But I’d forgotten I needed to replace a belt.

I rushed over to GFT and my failure to plan was resolved by one of the kindest most empathetic men I have ever met in my life, Ryan Peterson. He literally disarmed himself, took off his belt and loaned it to me for the weekend until they could get more in stock.

Is Your Local Gun Shop Helping or Hurting the Cause? Gunfighter Tactical
Carissa’s first firearm purchase!

I have countless examples of Ryan and GFT going above and beyond but, I think you get the picture. In running Armed Equality I regularly receive reports, both good and bad, from members about different instructors, shops, etc. and I do my best to reward the good guys and resist the temptation to call out the bad guys.

SDCGO Michael Schwartz & FPC Brandon Combs are men I consider great and admirable mentors who also deserving of great praise in context of this topic. They’re always looking at the big picture, the long game, and the efficacy of various 2A community building actions.

So please pay closer attention to the shops around you. Get to know the owners, and ask them how they’re involved in the big picture, long-term, fight to preserve, protect and extend the Second Amendment. Ask them specifically how they are assisting in growing the 2A community beyond merely selling firearms.

In my view, only having a ‘join the NRA’ display on the counter isn’t good enough; we need that and so much more. Watch how your favorite shops treat unsure newcomers. See if they bend over backwards to make a first-time, overwhelmed, on-the-fence, hesitant individual comfortable. If not, they’re doing it wrong. If they’re doing it wrong, let them know, and if they won’t change, take your dollars elsewhere.

Is Your Local Gun Shop Helping or Hurting the Cause?
Ryan from GFT and Armed Equality Members at the SDCGO ‘Gun Prom’ 2018

We’re all in this together. Let’s make sure we remember to act and behave like it.

Piper Smith is the founder & executive director of Armed Equality.

Armed Equality National Discussion Group

Armed Equality SoCal Training Group

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  1. “Simply having a ‘join the NRA’ display on the counter isn’t good enough.”

    I thought this article was supposed to be against back-stabbing within the 2A community? Wouldn’t supporting the organization that exists to back stab be a bad thing instead of a start?

    • I think the point is that they should be doing more than just signing people up for the NRA, not that they shouldn’t be promoting the NRA.

        • At this point, it would be pretty easy to write a Python script to generate his comments.

        • When you come right down to it, Nanashi isn’t really off target about the NRA. Keep in mind that every single piece of anti-RKBA legislation that has passed at the federal level in the last fifty years did so with the open support of the NRA.

          All the anti-gun crowd has ever needed to do is to get some clown in congress to introduce a completely ridiculous bill that reads like a Bloomberg Wish List but has no chance of passing. That bill will become the centerpiece of fund raising on both sides. Once both sides have fleeced their supporters for every cent available, they meet in the proverbial back room to cut a deal where the anti-gun “moderates” take a few of the most ridiculous parts out of their bill, and the NRA blesses the “compromise” bill which then passes congress so that both sides can go back claiming “victory” but warning their supporters that they need more money to “continue the fight.”

          The only time in the last 50 years that there has been any deviation from this scenario was in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting when the NRA didn’t even bother waiting for the anti-gun crowd to introduce their strawman bill — the NRA came right out pushing for a ban on “bump stocks” then they pretended to be shocked when Trump made an off-the-cuff comment that he would support such a ban.

  2. Great article. The Second Amendment is for all Americans, just as universal as the First. If we as gun-owners are welcoming to others, that only helps our cause. No, we don’t need to compromise on rights. Rather, we should seek to invite all Americans to participate in those rights. That’s how we win, especially against gun-grabber opponents who are very quick to excommunicate anyone who fails their purity tests.

    Second Amendment rights are human rights.

  3. A spirited and even aggressive debate on a wide variety of topics is valuable. We should continue to welcome it.
    If you only want to talk about the things we agree about, then we don’t have much to talk about.

    • Challenging your beliefs makes them stronger. I know I personally have gotten better at holding my ground and even advancing in real life discussions on gun control, thanks to knowledge I acquired here.

      • I’ve only been wrong a couple times in my life, but good people showed me the way.

        Haha, naw really I’ve held some long term opinions and knowledge on firearms topics (technical and political) that I later found to be either untrue or less informed than I originally thought. Getting called out and/or reading educational material in places like this have influenced my purchasing decisions, daily habits, and knowledge base. I’ve probably introduced over 60 folks to shooting, most on their first time handling a firearm, and I’d like to think the more I learned from places like TTAG let me present the most honest and best face of the 2A community to those newer folks.

        Bicker away, but have a defendable and data-supported point to your bickering.

        • For a ‘relatively’ young man I’ve been at this a long, long time, with varying degrees of intensity. Over the decades I’ve had to revise my thinking more than a couple of times, and even some of the technical ‘facts’ I knew at one time have changed or become suspect.
          It has taught me to keep an open mind, observe the potential truth, meaning and value in what I pick up, and to never be so sure of something that I’m not open to reconsideration in the face of new information. In both politics and firearms, things change, nuances count for a lot, and no one knows everything.

  4. Mine is always helping. A small but strong voice in this blue little bubble we live in.

  5. Unfortunately our LGS is a lot like the night shift at the Awful House, 6 legs, 4 teeth, and lots of banjo music.

  6. I will second what the author states about Ryan and the GFT shop. They have worked on both my handguns and my rifle and I have 0 complaints. They also don’t charge a fee to have ammo shipped to them from online purchases and they don’t give exemptions to the privileged LEO class over us peasants. I live in North County, and I drive 40 minutes each way to go to this shop.

  7. Quite often, firearms owners are their own worst enemies. The duck hunters don’t like the AR-15 “black rifles” so they see no problem if attempts are made to ban them. The traditional rifle owners don’t like machine guns, so they have no problem with them being legislated out of existence. Some pistol owners see nothing wrong with certain long guns being outlawed just as some rifle owners would have no problem seeing pistols banned. You see, anti-gunners want them all. They will chip away a little at a time until their goal of civilian disarmament is complete. They have an excuse for banning every firearm. Scoped bolt-action rifles are defined by anti-gunners as “sniper rifles” because they are “too accurate”. Magazine-fed weapons are suspect because of high (actually normal) magazine capacity. Handguns are suspect because they are “easily concealable”. The gun grabbers want them all and have made (flimsy and suspect) excuses for banning every type of firearm. They don’t care how long it takes. and will use incrementalism to their advantage.
    Friends, ALL firearms advocates must “hang together” and realize that an assault on ANY means of firearms ownership and self-defense is an assault on ALL forms of firearms ownership and self-defense.
    There is absolutely NO ROOM for complacency among ANY Second Amendment supporters. An attack on one is an attack on ALL…
    ALL firearms laws are unconstitutional on their face. Imagine the hue and cry if “reasonable” restrictions were placed on First Amendment activities, especially with the “mainstream media”. The Second Amendment is clear–what part of “shall not be infringed” do politicians and the media not understand…of course, they understand full well…it’s part of their communist agenda…
    Even the NRA bears some responsibility for capitulation on matters concerning firearms. The NRA failed when it allowed the National Firearms Act of 1934 to stand without offering opposition, the 1968 Gun Control Act, the NICS “instant check” system, the “no new machine gun for civilians” ban in 1986, the so-called “assault weapons ban in 1991, and other infringements on the Second Amendment. Let’s face it. What better way to increase membership than to “allow” infringements to be enacted and then push for a new membership drive. Yes, the NRA has done good, but its spirit of “compromise” will only lead to one thing…confiscation.
    If the NRA is truly the premier “gun rights” organization, it must reject ALL compromise…

  8. The problem is, we have allowed the anti Second Amendment crowd to define the terms.
    A firearm is a tool which possesses no evil intent on its own. Assigning intent to an inanimate object is the epitome of insanity. Demonizing a weapon on “looks alone” also marks the accuser as an unstable individual who is also insane. Call them out on their illogic and insanity.
    Another dirty tactic the anti-Second Amendment crowd uses exposes children to potential and actual harm by putting them in “gun-free zones”. These people care not one wit about children, but uses them for their own nefarious purposes.
    We need to TAKE BACK the argument…
    When the antis blame the firearm for the actions of a criminal, state that: “a firearm is an inanimate object, subject only to the intent of the user. Firearms ARE used to preserve life and make a 90 lb. woman equal to a 200 lb. criminal”.
    When the antis attempt to justify their “gun free zones” counter their misguided argument with “you mean, criminal safety zones” or “victim disarmament zones”.
    State that “we protect our money, banks, politicians and celebrities, buildings and facilities with PEOPLE WITH GUNS, but protect our children with “gun-free zone” signs”.
    When the antis criticize AR-15s in general, counter with: “you mean the most popular rifle of the day, use able by even the smallest, weakest person as a means of self-defense. Besides, AR-15s are FUN to shoot”. Offer to take them to the range and supply them with an AR-15, ammunition and range time. I have made
    many converts this way.
    When the antis state that: “You don’t need an AR-15 to hunt with”, counter with “AR-15s ARE used for hunting, but in many states, are prohibited from being used to take large game because they are underpowered”.
    When the antis state that: “AR-15s are high powered rifles”, correct them by stating that “AR-15s with the .223 or 5.56mm cartridge are considered medium-powered weapons–NOT “high-powered” by any means”.
    When the antis state that: “you don’e need and AR-15”, counter with, “Who are YOU to consider what I need?”
    When the antis state that: “the Constitution was written during the time of muskets, and that the Second Amendment should only apply to “weapons of that time period”, state that: “by your logic, the First Amendment should not apply to modern-day telecommunications, internet, television, radio, public-address systems, books and newspapers produced on high-speed offset printing presses. Only “town-criers” and Benjamin Franklin type printing presses would be covered under the First Amendment”.
    When the antis state that “only law enforcement and government should possess firearms”, remind them of the latest school shooting, as well as Columbine, where “law enforcement” SAT ON THEIR HANDS while children were being murdered, citing “officer safety”, afraid to challenge the shooter, despite being armed to the hilt. The government-run murderous sieges at Ruby Ridge and Waco are also good examples of government (mis)use of firearms.
    This tome can be used to counter any argument against any infringement of our Second Amendment.

  9. The closest thing my town has to an LGS is a regional sporting-goods/hardware chain in the next town over. It’s in a college town, and the progbots complained about the Evil Assaulty McAssaultFace weapons, so they took ALL the semiauto rifles and all standard-capacity semiauto handguns off the shelves and shipped them to their other stores (which apparently didn’t get any complaints).

    Now their inventory looks exactly like Wal-Mart’s: fudd guns only. No, scratch that, they have AR-pattern plinkers in .22 lr. Not for long, though, cause some snowflake is bound to get triggered because it looks “assaulty.”

    So no, they’re not helping the cause. I don’t want to give them any more money, but unless I want to drive 50 miles, it’s literally either them or Wal-Mart. Sometimes there are no good choices.

  10. While I generally agree, I do also feel California is a lost cause. I left California for a state where I can actually feel free, just like a friend of mine left Iraq because he’s Christian. Sometimes a strategic withdrawal is all you’re left with.

  11. I totally support GFT’s NO LE Only Policy, and I work in Law Enforcement. Good for them.

  12. The gun community eats its own way too much. NY, NJ, CT, MA, CA, and DC laws are ultimately only as awful as they are because of a few mega-cities occupied by hordes of throughly indoctrinated leftwits.

    It always cracks me up when some ignorant fool in the south or west makes a regular jackass of themselves by asserting that the entire state of New York is just one giant skyscraper and taxi filled metropolis. Rural NY would be more Republican than Texas if the people creating the artificial state borders in 1788 would have made NYC a separate state.

    Same thing goes for California. Should citizens in their state just have to accept the stupid laws of LA and San Francisco or surrender their life’s work, family farms, and community small businesses so they can up and leave? Is this what we are now, fleeing one state after another until the whole country becomes England? California gun owners probably spend more money on guns than all of the midwestern states combined.

    The good old NRA factors into this infighting too. Wayne and his buddies need “boogeyman” states like NY and CA to stay crazy so that people pony up the big bucks to keep the rest of the country “free”. Granted, fighting the Progs on their home turf would be hard, take more time, and would require unorthodox strategy, but it could be done. NY had the most NRA members after the SAFE Act in 2013. What has the NRA done for them? Nothing.

    So for all the morons who want to get a piece of NYers, people from Cali, and all our other brothers and sisters behind lefty lines, I will politely remind you that we are not commie loving, Democrat-embracing, snowflakes. Most of us hate the politics of our states, try to make things right, and face down the biggest political machines ever assembled.

    Do you really want to fight us?

    • “Do you really want to fight us?”

      No. We really want you to see there is power in numbers; move to a state where your votes will actually count for something. “Outposts” are good as a trip wire, but not a line of defense. When you defend everywhere, you defend nowhere. Reinforce those states where you have a real chance to succeed. The crazies in the coastal states are infecting red states. Time the anti-tyranny people move out, and bolster those states where constitutional principles are strongest. You will never defeat the Left in Cali, NYC, et. al. but you can help hold them out of Texas, Arizona, and the heartland.

      • Cuomo wouldn’t be governor if all the gun owners in NY had gotten off their happy rear ends and voted for the no-name smuck the GOP ran in 2014. Voter turnout was low (not a presidential year) and the teachers were pissed at Dandy Andy for something that I don’t remember.

        Unfortunately, the GOP leaders in NY, who suck, and most of those holding elected GOP office didn’t help the smuck running in ‘14. It did not help the no-name guy at all either that he did not really start campaigning until a month before the election.

        Sadly, history is repeating itself again this year, perhaps speaking to your point. In national elections, I don’t expect NY to go red until we find a way to care or excise the city’s political cancer. State-level elections however could be another story, and they are more important in terms of gun policy (which is mostly made at state level) than Federal.

  13. Divisiveness within the RKBA community isn’t new — but it also isn’t our biggest problem.

    WE are our own biggest problem!

    The “gun control” vs “gun rights” debate will never be settled by people on either side. It will be settled by the people in the middle. — people who may or may not own a gun, people who may or may not like guns, people who may or may not know anything about guns, people who live their daily lives without even thinking about guns.

    The other side understands this – but obviously we don’t.

    The vast majority of “Pro-gun” organizations at the national, state, and local levels spend all their time preaching to the choir (actually most of them spend all their time passing the collection plate around the choir). Where is the outreach? We have a few programs for new shooters — but nearly all such programs focus on youth. Yes, the youth are the next generation of adults, and yes teaching them to handle a firearm safely is important. BUT youth marksmanship programs are all still just preaching to the choir. Those programs have merit, but they aren’t going to win us any converts because better than 99% of the youths who come to such programs are already pro-gun and come from pro-gun families. They are the Eve Baxters of the our world, not the Ryan Vogelsons.

    It’s bad enough that we aren’t out there trying to win friends but it is far worse that so many of “us” are doing everything possible to alienate people and make enemies for our cause. Probably the WORST among these are the so-called Open Carry advocates. Depending on where you are and what you are doing, you MIGHT NOT make any enemies by walking through Wallyworld neatly dressed with a holstered pistol at the 4 o’clock position on your belt — but I can guarantee that a dozen open carry activists carrying ARs and AKs into a local big box store have just ensured that most of the people they met are now ready to support the next “gun control” proposal they hear.

    Some of the firearms magazines are almost as bad with covers that appeal to their intended audience of merc wannabes, but present a terrible image of gun owners. Likewise while most of the major firearms manufacturers and distributors exercise restraint in their advertising, we all know those companies whose advertising claims would make DiFi blush.

    Yes, open carry may be a 2nd Amendment right, and advertising your 80% lower as an “Untraceable Ghost Gun” may be protected under the 1st Amendment — but both are downright stupid when we throw them in the face of Mr & Mrs Mainstream America.

  14. A high traffic popular gun youtuber spent an entire video telling us how if we were willing to compromise at all on the 2a, including leaving the NFA in place, we were part of the problem. I unsubscribed. When he shows up as a guest on another channel, I let my displeasure with him be known and he directly attacked me as ‘part of the problem’ and ‘bringing CA back to the rest of the country’ (I am from the east coast and moved to CA for 18 years). He’s also been going on a to heck with the NRA tirade because of bump stocks…

    • When the voters of the nation, including each and every gun owner at the time of a vote, fail to elect representatives that are as ardent about an issue as the voters themselves, who should be held accountable?

      “We the People”

      If all alleged 100 million gun owners cannot muster the interest to find and elect representatives who will push as far toward “absolute” as possible, who should be held accountable?

      “Gun Owners”

      When a government converts itself from employee to ruler, who should bear the responsibility?

      “We the People”.

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