While SHOT Show is a hotbed of activity for those in the firearm business, it’s also a place where important movers and shakers—both political and not-so-political—can be found. We found three fascinating individuals who gave us glimpses into their lives today.
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Pete Brownell, Brownells CEO And NRA 1st Vice President
Brownells is 76 years old now. It’s a family-owned business that started in my grandpa’s basement and moved from the basement to my Dad’s room, and from there to retail shops around Montezuma, a small town in Iowa. It really was a dream to provide gunsmithing services and products to gunsmiths around the world that my grandpa knew. He really followed the American dream. Back in those days—in ’39 and ’40—you could hang out your shingle and be somewhat successful. The economic times were right for development and entrepreneurship. The political times were right for entrepreneurship and development of businesses. And we grew over the last 76 years to be a pretty large company doing business around the world.
Today, you take a look at entrepreneurship—the ability to start a business—and the freedom to provide for your family, I would say it’s very difficult. I would say there’s an anti-business culture going on right now. We see it with anybody trying to strike out on their own, all the hoops they have to jump through. It’s just difficult. And I think this political environment is going to make business more difficult if it continues to perpetuate itself.
I love the firearms industry, and this industry is under attack—and has been, because we sway and hold influence over a lot of people. It really is made up of the grassroots efforts of every gun owner in America. They stand up and are proud to be gun owners. And a lot of the people in this industry are mom-and-pop, entrepreneurial, grassroots people. From a business perspective, it’s important to elect a pro-gun president and representatives because they will also be pro-business, pro-conservation of our lands, pro-access to our public lands.
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Julie Golob, Captain Of Team Smith & Wesson And Mother
Right now, the biggest thing for me is sharing a passion for the shooting sports, especially with moms out there. Because when you get moms out there shooting and having a good time with their kids, the whole family shoots—and that’s so important. Introducing them to the shooting sports in a successful way, and incorporating the safety that we’ve learned in the shooting sports, is critical. Everybody talks about firearm safety, but when you’re in a shooting sport, you have to practice it. So what I’ve found, even as a teenager starting my first competitions, I had to be safe—that was the No. 1 priority. Because of my involvement in the shooting sports, I became so much more confident. Guns don’t become scary, they become tools, and we know how to be safe with them. That’s super important to me right now—and will be forever.
As a mom and a professional shooter, I have a busy schedule trying to balance it all. But I do find that moving forward with bringing my own kids into shooting is the most rewarding thing. I can go to the biggest matches out there and I can win new titles, but I tell you what: When I brought my daughter to the range for the first time when she was five, and she hit her target five times because she was five, oh my gosh, it was like, “Now I understand why my dad loved this.” I love the idea of being able to share that with other parents and have this legacy continue.
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Mark Geist, Benghazi Attack Survivor And President Of Shadow Warriors Project
My name is Mark Geist. My call sign is Oz. Sept. 11, 2012, I was in Benghazi. On Sept. 12, I got blown up in Benghazi when I was working for the Culinary Institute of America—better known as the CIA—as a private security contractor protecting CIA case officers as they go about their day doing their job. When the consulate came under attack, the ambassador was lost, Sean Smith was lost and our facility that was about a mile away came under attack throughout the night. During those 13 hours, they eventually came in with mortars and killed two of our guys—Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty—and injured myself and David Ubben, one of the State Department guys.
Because of going through the process, as a private security contractor, of trying to recover, my wife and I started a program called Shadow Warriors Project. What we found going through our trials is that the system is not set up for contractors. Once you leave that country, now you’re on an insurance policy and a workman’s comp policy. There’s not a line item in the budget for the U.S. government to take care of a contractor. Once you’re out of that country, you’re disposable—not by purpose, that’s just the way it is. Instead of worrying about the government trying to figure it out and take care of us, or the insurance companies trying to take care of our guys, we’re the kind of people who are going to figure it out ourselves.
We thought the best way we could do that was through our organization. It gives us a chance to continue serving our country and our brothers that are out there doing this, and we can control how they are taken care of. What our goal is, if someone gets injured or killed, we can initially help the family get to wherever he is and cover their expenses there, because you never know what’s coming up. To overcome the airfare and any incidental expenses, we want to be able to give them a credit card for $5,000, and then they can take care of what they need to do. It’s their decision how they need to use that to help them deal with the loss or almost loss of a loved one. Then we’re working on, after that, providing for the wife, who might need to go back for education if her husband is disabled now, or working with children, getting them counseling. There are a lot of things the family needs support for, and it’s just not there because we’re contractors. They really need this help; they really need to have this support.
Our website is shadowwarriorsproject.org. If you go there, we have opportunities to make a one-time donation, or you can set up a revolving donation. Also, we have just partnered with a group called The Activity Group. They provide a covert medical kit that works for our guys downrange. You can go there and buy that for yourself and a portion of your proceeds will go to Shadow Warriors, or you can buy that and the item itself goes to a guy downrange. He might need that next weekend; he might need it tomorrow or a month from now. We never know until it happens. That way you’re helping a guy, or at least able to help that guy help himself or somebody else should they get injured out in the field serving our country.