Two years ago, when we first relocated to Southern California, our son befriended a lovely classmate who was polite, courteous, fun—and the son of a man who sells guns.
I did not feel particularly great about this.
I mean, what did I know about guns? I was never aware of any of my New York pals and/or neighbors owning one. I certainly didn’t feel the need to keep a firearm in our house. So, again, being a guy who believes strongly in greater tracking and less access to firearms, I was not euphoric upon learning this little piece of information.
Then I met Matt Webb.
First, he was simply a nice guy. Second, he was a ridiculously involved father. Third, he was open minded and a fantastic listener. And, fourth, we talked about guns. And talked more about guns. He was chill and up front. He taught me some things I never knew, and was far from enamored by the NRA and the idea of unlimited, unchecked weaponry. When our son went to the Webbs for a play date, and the wife asked about a firearm in the home, they could not have been more decent. In short, Matt Webb is good people.
Hence, I asked him to come and be the 275th Quaz, and talk about guns and protection and hunting and safety and the NRA. Matt’s company, Badrock Tactical, can be found here.
Matt Webb, you’re the magical 275th Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN: Matt, I’m gonna throw one at you, because it’s always fascinated me and you’re a good person to ask. So I often hear people with guns in the home saying they have a weapon present for safety. “I want to protect my family,” etc … etc. And I get it. I truly do. But statistics seems pretty clear that a gun in the home is far more likely to kill/injure a loved one than stop an invader. So why, in your opinion, is it good to have a weapon in the abode?
MATT WEBB: Let me start by saying that “having a gun in the home” isn’t a universally good idea at all. So, in my opinion, one should only have a gun in the home as a mechanism for protection if they are equipped to have said weapon. To provide detail on what I mean: Are you trained in handling a weapon? Do you have adequate weapon storage security? Do you have a FEAR of handling the weapon? If there is ambiguity or uncertainty when you answer any of these questions, then you 100 percent SHOULD NOT have a weapon in the house. If you are a safe, have adequate storage and training, then having a weapon in the house can provide peace of mind in knowing that you could neutralize or eliminate a threat should one arise. The reality is that the police and 911 are not tasked with protecting you. They will actually tell you that if you ask them, so if one feels threatened, it is a way to provide security if proper measures have been taken to ensure safety.
J.P.: Your business, Badrock Tactical, specializes in the selling of—among other things—high-end AR platform tactical rifles. I am not a gun expert by any means, but the wording “assault rifle” immediately causes me to shudder. I ask with total seriousness, and zero snideness: Are you selling dangerous weapons that should not be out there? Why is it OK to sell assault rifles? And how can dealers like yourself make certain they don’t wind up in the wrong hands?
M.W.: The first thing we should do with respect to this question is clarify a detail that may seem frivolous to you, but it really grates on knowledgeable firearms owners … we DO NOT sell assault weapons. An AR-15 is not an assault weapon. What may seem like semantics to you is in reality a very big detail that gets glossed over by mainstream media. An assault weapon is a “select fire” (meaning it has the ability to shoot in full automatic mode). Now I realize that legislatively we as a society have started to lump many firearms in as “assault weapons” simply by visible characteristics (pistol grip, detachable magazine, flash suppressor, folding stock) … which, by the way, none of these attributes makes a firearm more or less dangerous. Now, with that out of the way, we do sell AR platform weapons, which are no more or less dangerous than a lever-action, bolt action or other semi-automatic type rifle or pistol. They simply “look scary” and the platform is used by our military, so it is assumed it is more dangerous.
The reality is that an AR type weapon is popular because it is highly modular, highly accurate and simple to operate. As far as sales of firearms, it doesn’t matter if it is an AR15 or a wooden-stock 22 long rifle … a purchaser in California (the only place we, as an FFL, can sell firearms) is required to complete a firearm safety course, submit to a background check, provide a thumb print and go through a 10-day wait/background evaluation before a firearm can be purchased. So is it possible to 100 percent guarantee that a firearm won’t end up in the hands of someone with ill intent? Of course not. No more so than I can guarantee a person won’t go into a hardware store and buy an axe or a Wal-Mart and buy a knife or get behind the wheel of a car drunk.
J.P.: We’ve spoken at length about the NRA, and you’re a gun owner who seems somewhat turned off by the organization. Why?
M.W.: My thoughts on the NRA are that it is far too stodgy and inflexible. As a responsible firearm owner, I feel like both sides (pro and anti-gun) need to look at options to make our country safer. I think the NRA falsely represents a “redneck” stance that does not embody all firearm owners. I, for one, am in support of waiting periods and background checks in every state. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require a test and a license to own a firearm. We do it with a car, so I have no problem with that concept and feel that it should be a part of firearm ownership.
J.P.: What do people like me not understand about guns, gun ownership? What do you feel like we’re missing?
M.W.: I don’t know that people like you are “missing” anything, per se. I think that more knowledge about firearms in general would help curb some of the preconceived notions about different types of firearms. The media gets it wrong so often and really tends to generalize, which is very frustrating for someone like me. But I think it’s just a cultural thing. People either appreciate and/or enjoy firearms activities (target shooting, competition shooting, hunting, etc) or they don’t. Obviously, given the large percentage of firearm ownership (in both absolute numbers and percentage of Americans who own firearms), firearms are popular to own in America. For those who don’t “get it” … my guess is that they have only focused on the negative and they have never had the opportunity or interest in exploring any of the positive or enjoyable parts of shooting sports. If you grow up in New York City, for instance, owning a car may be “odd” and taking a train is absolutely the norm. To someone growing up in North Dakota, this would seem extremely odd and they may not “get it” … but it’s just an exposure thing, I think.
J.P.: How did this happen for you? Like, what’s your background? How did you first become familiar with firearms? With shooting? What was the draw for you?
M.W.: I’ll start by pointing out that I grew up in Montana. Specifically, Badrock Canyon, in Northwest Montana near Glacier National Park. The actual community was Columbia Falls, MT located in the heart of the Flathead Valley. As a Montana boy, I spent much of my free time hunting, fishing, camping, target-shooting and just being an outdoorsman. I was raised in a house that had guns, obviously, and I learned to shoot at a very young age (probably about 5-years old) from my grandfather. Both my step-father and my grandfather were avid hunters and shooters and both had been in the military (Vietnam and Korea). For me, guns were not a big deal in the sense that I had a very healthy respect for them, but I didn’t view them as evil or an instrument of violence. They were used for hunting and for sport shooting. Now that I live in California, I certainly don’t hunt anymore, but I do enjoy target shooting still when I have the opportunity.
J.P.: Whenever a school shooting happens, we wind up in this huge, ugly, unproductive political debate. The left screams about cutting back on guns and increasing background checks. The right insists a gun is merely an instrument, that we need to focus on mental health. Matt, what says you? What can we do that would have a legitimate impact on safety?
M.W.: Nobody likes when there is a mass tragedy of any kind. Whether it’s a shooting, or a train derailing, or building blowing up or a multi-car freeway accident … on and on. As you pointed out, though, when such a tragedy occurs with firearms, it provides a political platform and the bickering starts. My feeling on it is that I think we could always do more to help in the areas of mental health, but I don’t think it will stop mass tragedies. We could completely ban firearms, and it’s not going to stop mass tragedies. The reality is (in my opinion) that bad people find ways to do bad things. It is naïve to think that a “gun ban” would take the guns out of the hands of the people who are causing harm anyway.
And even if it did, just for the sake of argument, bad people would still do their thing. It’s incredibly simple, fast and cheap to make a homemade bomb. You don’t need a driver’s license, you simply need YouTube and Home Depot and about five minutes of free time and you could make a device far more devastating than a firearm. I’m not sure what we can do to have a legitimate impact on safety. I guess if I were allocating dollars for programs it would be on teaching tolerance and promoting civic activities that brought people together rather than politicizing everything and tearing us apart.
J.P.: It seems like some guns are demonized more than others—and that gun owners often say, “Dude, you guys have NO idea what you’re talking about here.” So what’s an example of a gun people fail to grasp? And why?
M.W.: Some guns are definitely demonized more than others—like the AR15!! I kind of covered this a little bit before, but it’s worth repeating. The AR is demonized because it is popular to pick on and it has the “look” that it should be more dangerous. There are far more crimes committed with handguns. A high-powered rifle (.300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua, .50 cal, etc) are far more lethal, yet an AR is an easy target because our troops carry it, so the thought goes that the general population should not. I obviously do not agree with that stance.
To me, in my eyes, the AR is simply a firearm no more or less deserving of our care and respect as firearms owners than any other weapon. It is not an assault weapon, capable of full-automatic firing. Those types of weapons are for our military or for those that are willing and can afford the nearly two-year long and extremely expensive process of getting approved for one.
J.P.: In 1994 Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assaults Weapons Ban into law—and many Democrats and Republicans cheered. It expired in 2004 under intense pressure from the NRA, and now no longer exists. What did you think of the ban? Was it useful? Useless? Important? Unimportant?
M.W.: The 1994 Federal Assault had no impact on gun crime. The FBI Crime Reports support that fact unequivocally. Primarily because, even prior to the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban, less than 2 percent of gun crime was committed with said weapon. The reality is that violent crime with a firearm has continually declined in total for the past 25 years—and the crimes that do take place are primarily committed with a handgun. So, no, an assault weapon ban will have zero impact in my opinion. Because like with most gun control laws, it only will impact law abiding citizens. I hate to point out the obvious, but people who commit crimes, with or without guns, are by definition criminals and couldn’t care less about whether there is a “ban” or not.
J.P.: You have three kids. What is the best way to approach gun safety with children?
M.W.: With my three youngest boys, we have taken the position that they should be comfortable with the idea of firearms. What I mean by that is that we have taken the time to teach them basic firearm safety. I’ve taught them how they work and what they are used for. We have also instilled a healthy respect for their power and capability of devastation. Since they have been exposed to them in a safe, non-threatening manner and had the opportunity to ask questions and go target shooting … they have become a “non-issue” in that they don’t even think about them being at our home because they are completely unaware that they are in the home due to the type of safe we choose to keep in our home.
I should point out that I’m a firm—absolutely firm—believer that firearms in the home have to be in a gun safe. There is never a scenario that a firearm that is in the home shouldn’t be locked away and inaccessible to anyone other than the owner. I was raised that way and we never had anything that came close to an accident or problem and I feel the same way as a parent.
As a matter of fact, in today’s world it is a good idea to inquire about homes where your kids may go to play or hang out. It was something I took for granted until your lovely wife Catherine made the inquiry to us … and it really hit me that we should be asking that question too. Not everyone is as responsible or as careful as us, and we should know what kind of environment our kids are hanging out in. I know my kids won’t pick up a gun that isn’t theirs or play with a gun, but I have no idea what other kids may do …
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MATT WEBB:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Matt Kemp, Chubby Checker, David Beckham, E.T., Flo Rida, Spotify, Montana State, Jude Law, Judy Dench, Kiki Dee, boogers: 1. Flo Rida, 2. Spotify, 3. ET, 4. Chubby Checker, 5. Matt Kemp, 6. David Beckham, 7. Judy Dench, 8. Kiki Dee, 9. Boogers, 10. Montana State.
• Five all-time favorite ice cream flavors: 1. Salted Carmel, 2. Cherry Cheesecake, 3. Cookies and Cream, 4. French Vanilla, 5. Chocolate
• What scares you more: Ebola or climate change? Why?: Hmmmm … Ebola because I don’t know how I would get it and it would freak me out. With climate change, I feel like I’m already “dealing” with that and it’s going as well as can be expected.
• Tell me your best joke: Teacher: Whoever answers my next question, can go home. One boy throws his bag out the window. Teacher: Who just threw that? Boy: Me and I’m going home now.
• One question you would ask Garry Templeton were he here right now?: If Garry Templeton were here right now … I’d ask him how he ever blew a gig like managing a baseball team in Maui.
• Would you rather eat a 12-inch log of Jeff Beck’s poop or stick a needle in and out of your eyeball?: I’m going for the needle in the eyeball over Jeff Beck’s 12 inch poop log … in a landslide. Great guitar player, but the poop? No thanks
• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Jerry Brown? What’s the outcome?: I crush Moonbeam in a scheduled 12 round bout. It’s over in the first round. His corner throws in the towel.
• Greatest movie line of all time?: Val Kilmer in Tombstone. There are actually two. The first one is when he and the gang are going room to room in the brothel and they tell everyone, “Don’t move!” Then he sees a couple getting busy and he says, ”No, no, by all means … move.” The second one is, of course, his very famous line: ”I’m your huckleberry.”