Cope Reynolds knew he was going to stir up trouble when, shortly after the election, he took out a newspaper ad declaring anyone who voted for President Obama was banned from his small-town Arizona gun shop.
But in an interview with TPM on Monday, he said the trouble has been relatively minor compared to the praise he’s gotten from gun enthusiasts around the world.
“We’ve even gotten calls from Afghanistan, England, almost every state in the union. Overwhelmingly they’re in support,” Reynolds said by phone. “You can always tell the ones that are not — nine out of 10 of them start out with vile and nasty language. And I guess they don’t have the intelligence to carry on a conversation like an adult. Probably about 75 percent have been for it, maybe even more than that.”
Sure, there have been people who are unhappy with him, too. He said he has even gotten death threats: “Just comes with the territory I guess.”
Reynolds is the kind of guy who seems to live for controversy. He took out the ad for his shop, Southwest Shooting Authority, in his local newspaper on Nov. 9. It ended up drawing international headlines last week after first getting some attention in Arizona. But he’s been using his business to push liberal buttons since long before that.
Before moving his shop to Pinetop, Ariz. last year, Reynolds ran the business from Farmington, N.M., where he kept a marquee that frequently displayed political messages designed to drive the left wild.
“Obama - Why Stupid People Shouldn’t Vote,” the sign read at one point a few years ago.
“We Are Not Racists! We Don’t Like His White Half Either!” it said at another time.
He also hosts his own internet radio show and sometimes speaks at tea party rallies. So it was probably no surprise to most of his customers when Reynolds posted a sign on the door to his shop a day after Obama won a second term: “If you voted for Obama, please turn around and leave! You have proven that you are not responsible enough for a firearm!”
Reynold’s said the sign wasn’t premeditated but rather “strictly off the cuff.”
But he didn’t stop there. Unsatisfied, Reynolds secured advertising space in the White Mountain Independent newspaper and started posting messages on the store’s Facebook page and the gun news website AmmoLand. Eventually it blew up.
Despite the attention, though, Reynolds maintains the ad was more than a publicity stunt. It was born out of genuine frustration with voters who chose to re-elect Obama. The choice was so clear to him, he didn’t understand how a majority of voters would go back to the well a second time.
Don’t mistake Reynolds for a Mitt Romney supporter, though. He said he actually voted for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and that he wasn’t a “big Romney fan.” Still, there’s little doubt to Reynolds that the Republican nominee would have been demonstrably better than Obama.
Reynolds believes Obama will pursue gun control immediately in his second term, even though the president largely ignored the issue during his first. That’s why Reynolds remains mystified by the notion that any gun owner could have supported the incumbent.
“They have not been paying attention to the news. They have not been paying attention to what he’s been doing,” Reynolds said. “But it will become painfully obvious to them soon.”
That said, Reynolds also admitted that his ban on Obama voters was largely symbolic. He can’t imagine any of his customers cast his ballot for the president this month.
“Every day, we get complaints about Obama,” he said. “I haven’t even met anyone who was going to vote for him. The people who say they’re not going to do business with us, they weren’t going to do business with us anyway.”
He also said he won’t conduct a litmus test to determine a customer’s views, although he’s considering offering discounts to registered Republicans and Libertarians. Obama voters can still shop at Southwest Shooting Authority, so long as they keep their politics to themselves.
“The only way it’s enforceable is if they come in and tell us, then we’re not going to sell to them,” Reynolds said. “But if they come in and shut their mouth, we’ll sell to them.”
Tom Kludt is a newswriter for TPM. A former research intern and polling fellow for TPM, he lives and works in New York City. Tom graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in May of 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. He can be reached at Tom (at) talkingpointsmemo.com.