Out Of Context: Opportunity In Diversity


Image: goir / Adobe Stock

In the editorial realm, it’s viewed akin to a cardinal sin: quoting someone out of context. In the scores of interviews I’ve done over the years with sources, I’ve been very mindful to not do it — so I was struck by the of irony of seeing an article published by The Trace, in partnership with Rolling Stone, last year using a quote from my column taken very much out of context (and without my permission).

While discussing how the firearms industry has thrived amid the “unfolding tragedy” of devastating shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, The Trace’s Champe Barton included the following in his article “Shootings Have Surged — and Gun Companies Have Made Billions”:

“Jade Moldae, an editor at the trade publication Shooting Industry Magazine, seemed to acknowledge the irony of this success in a December 2021 editorial. ‘There are many words we could use to describe the past two years,’ he wrote. ‘[U]nprecedented, relentless, eye-opening, stretching, tumultuous, frustrating, to name a few. But here, let’s focus on another: opportunity.’”

This passage was the only part of my original editorial that was used; taking it out of context does it a disservice. The author missed a key point: He ignored the fact the “opportunity” referenced here is found in the millions of Americans who have become firearms owners since 2020.

Women and minorities were catalysts of the record growth that was experienced in 2020–2021, and continue to be a vibrant part of post-COVID business planning. If dealers can better position their stores and staff to continue welcoming them in, they’ll benefit during a downturn and be well prepared ahead of the next surge.

Diversifying Your Staff Matters

Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C., has shared in the past his store’s unique vantage point, being located in a diverse area. He’s made it a priority to hire salespersons representative of his community.

“It’s important to diversify your staff if you’re in a city with diversity. Find good people who know the gun business,” he said. “There are a lot of stores where the employees know a lot about guns, but they don’t particularly like people.”

Relating to women, Hyatt suggests a change in mindset is needed when a salesperson approaches a husband and wife or dating partners: “The female customer is just as likely to be the buyer as the male customer. Don’t assume anything.”

“It’s important we address the ‘whys.’ Why are they coming in? Sport? Fear? Curiosity?
We must welcome and accommodate
every reason.”

Jessica Ulrich, Co-Owner/Operator
Marksman Indoor Range

Focusing On Women “Too” Much?

In this month’s “She Shells More Than Seashells” feature, three woman-owned stores shared their motivations for entering the industry and what makes their stores different from the “traditional gun store.” I followed up with each of them to glean further insights into what could be a slippery slope: Has the industry focused “too” much on appealing to women, and has it done them a disservice?

Jacquelyn Clark, of Bristlecone Shooting, didn’t seem to think a concerted effort to welcome women caused much harm.

“Is the industry doing a disservice to women by focusing too much on encouraging dealers to welcome them? I don’t see any negative in that. If the fastest-growing segment was a different demographic, I’d expect the industry to put the same effort in to communicating this and encouraging dealers to welcome said demographic,” she stated.

Clark did contend, though, there’s a right and wrong way to approach prospective female customers.

“I do think the encouragement needs to be done in the right way and with the right message, though,” she said. “Encouraging dealers to buy lots of pink and purple guns because ‘that’s what all women like’ and they represent the fast-growing segment just doesn’t work.”

In a similar vein, Generational Guns’ Heather Carpenter highlighted education and positive experiences are key to welcoming women.

“I don’t think it’s a disservice to women as a whole, but there is a linewhere it could be too much,” she said. “However, it’s great to welcome women into this industry! What I’ve seen over the years is a lot of women are unsureof the industry because of the unknown and the stereotypes that follow it. A lot of the time, with education and experience, women love the industry just as much as men. First-time intimidation is a big factor, too.”

Carpenter has made it a priority for Generational Guns staff to recognize these differences and maintain a welcoming presence.

“As things are changing, the industry is still mostly a man’s world. For a woman stepping into it and unsure of everything around her, it’s very intimidating. In our store, our team is trained to understand this and be cognitive of it. It’s important for our team to recognize this, but treat them as equals. Our goal is to make people feel at ease, understand there are no stupid questions, share our expertise with them and have fun while doing it — whether they’re a woman or a man.”

Jessica Ulrich of The Indoor Marksman concurred, adding dealers need to understand the motives behind a woman’s desire to own a firearm.

“With women being the fastest-growing demographic in this industry, it’s important we address the ‘whys.’ Why are they coming in? Sport? Fear? Curiosity? We must welcome and accommodate every reason,” she noted. “We must also respect every woman’s journey with firearms looks a little bit different, and give her the tools to take her next steps.”

As we conclude the fifth annual Woman’s Issue, I’ll leave this parting thought: What is your store doing to break down barriers and negative stereotypes for first-time guests? The more our industry can welcome in customers of “non-traditional” backgrounds, the better.

Click To Read More Shooting Industry March 2023 Issue Now!