A reporter and a gun owner walk into a shop...
Updated: Jan 29, 2019
The skepticism in her voice said it all. It was easy to hear her hesitancy with every stutter she pronounced over the phone. Kim Waltuch, owner of Gun World of South Florida in Deerfield Beach, could not imagine a reporter covering her gun shop.
The concerns over negative press would cross any business owner’s mind. But when the industry is at the root of one of the most controversial topics in today’s society, a reporter might as well be the devil himself. Two other gun shops in West Palm Beach declined to speak. One blamed it on corporate policy, and the other stated that it “had some issues” with the press in the past.
However, Waltuch eventually managed to set aside any personal skepticism. The fears that would strike many gun shop owners vanished after learning this journalist had no preconceived biases towards her livelihood. Once Waltuch realized that the integrity of the article solely relied on seeking the truth, and not a political agenda, she opened her doors to a curious reporter observing America’s greatest frenemy.
“I like to say we’re the Nordstrom of gun ranges because we’re friendly and safety is our priority,” Waltuch, a retired preschool teacher of 19 years, said.
It was not always Waltuch’s plan to own a gun shop. In 2013, her husband, Randy, a gun enthusiast, opened Gun World. Two years later, he unexpectedly passed away. Waltuch and her son, Jake, decided to honor Randy’s dream of operating a family-oriented gun shop by keeping the business going.
Genuine laughter and conversations filled the air as gunshots pounded off the walls like raindrops on a Florida patio. Fathers and sons lounged around the living-room-style lobby watching college football. Bowls of Jolly Ranchers were scattered around the room. Fruit and vegetable trays sat on a high-top table with a sign that read “Help yourself!” With four years of ownership under her belt, Waltuch continues to pursue Randy’s mission.
“It’s all about marketing,” Waltuch said.
And what better time to pull all the marketing strings than on the busiest day of the year: Black Friday. On this day, flat-screen TVs and Xbox consoles aren’t the only items flying off the shelves. For gun shops across the country, Black Friday means heavy customer volume and lots of coin.
In 2017, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System report shows that Black Friday broke the record for most background check requests for gun purchases in a single day. According to USA Today, there were 203,086 requests.
It’s also no coincidence that there was a spike in requests following mass shootings in Las Vegas and in a Texas church.
“Anything that endangers people, and they get nervous, always affects sales,” Waltuch said. “Because people have the right to defend themselves.”
Maria Montalbano, a real estate agent for 21 years, utilizes that right.
“It’s a great hobby, and I like to know that I’m a good shot if anything did happen,” Montalbano said.
Throughout her career, she’s witnessed homeless people hiding in closets on multiple occasions, and she was once violently charged at by a client.
“I go in a house; it’s vacant,” Montalbano said. “[Clients] have the opportunity to do whatever they want, and it’s not going to happen to me.”
Even though Montalbano was determined to purchase a gun on Black Friday, the 2018 National Instant Criminal Background Check System numbers did not reflect a widespread urgency. According to USA Today, the FBI saw a 10 percent decrease in background check requests last year. There were 182,093 requests, which makes Nov. 23, 2018, the fourth highest day on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s top ten list. It bumped Dec. 21, 2012, one week after the Sandy Hook shooting, down to number five.
In reality, the number of firearms sold is greater than the number of background checks. According to USA Today, background checks for gun purchases do not accurately depict gun sales since multiple firearms can go under one transaction.
Waltuch explained that people in Broward County must wait five business days to pick up their newly bought firearm if they do not own a concealed weapons permit. If they own a permit, they can walk out the door with their firearm the day of their purchase, but only if they pass a background check.
Dennis Petretti, a native of Yonkers, New York and a regular at Gun World, doesn’t seem to mind these gun laws. When comparing the constraints of New York to Florida, Petretti says Florida wins every time.
“It’s just repulsive,” Petretti said. “[New York is] a really restrictive place to live.”
Petretti, a retired Navy Fighter Pilot, enjoys shooting as a means to socialize. He moved down to Florida ten years ago, and he’s loved it ever since.
“If you’re into shooting weapons for whatever reason – hunting, personal defense – [Florida] makes it easier,” Petretti raved.
Not everyone is a firearm fan like Petretti. Supporters of gun control and gun ownership have clashed over the Second Amendment rights and gun violence for decades. Waltuch accepts the challenges that come with being in a controversial industry.
“In this business, you get the good, the bad and the ugly,” Waltuch said.
Waltuch says that her shop hasn’t experienced any protesters posted outside or negative press.
“People [at Gun World] are positive, but you get people who’re skeptical,” Waltuch said.
"You get people who’re unsure.”
By Amber Amortegui