Facebook/Cherokee Guns

A controversial sign for a local gun store in Cherokee County, North Carolina may soon be replaced, but that won’t be the last of the story involving Cherokee Guns and owner Steven “Doc” Wacholz.  As local media have reported, Allison Outdoors Media claims it never approved the billboard’s design before it went up, and have stated the billboard will be coming down, though at last report the billboard remains unchanged.

Other press outlets have reported that Wacholz is ready to sue if the billboard comes down before August 9th, when it was scheduled to be replaced.

A man who answered the phone Aug. 1 at Cherokee Guns, identifying himself only as “Butch,” reiterated that stance.

Butch, who said he was a volunteer at the shop, said representatives of Allison Outdoor Advertising had been in Cherokee Guns the past few days discussing the sign’s removal. But, he said, “The sign’s not coming down.”

Not until Aug. 9, at least, when he said it’s scheduled to be switched out.

He said the new sign will likely feature the text of the First Amendment.

Cherokee County, where Cherokee Guns is located, approved a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary resolution back in March. The resolution states in part:

The Cherokee County Government will not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations, that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms as described and defined in detail above.

Clearly the county of around 27,000 takes its 2nd Amendment rights seriously, though it’s worth noting that the 2nd Amendment Sanctuary resolution passed by a narrow vote of 3-2. The billboard in question has drawn both support and opposition from locals as well.

“If we were still in North Carolina, we would have to make a trip to come purchase some firearms from these guys and support them, because that’s amazing,” said one caller.

Others, like resident Randy Barnett, felt the need to speak out against the ad.

“I was just appalled by it. I’ve lived here all my life and I think it’s divisive,” says Barnett, “I hope it’s not who we represent now.”

Others, including gun control groups, say the billboard isn’t just divisive, but dangerous.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence shared the post on their own Facebook page, saying “Disgusting anti-government violent rhetoric from Cherokee Guns in North Carolina. Threats against members of Congress, particularly minority members are (upward-trend emoji) and it is driven by the president’s racial rhetoric This is dangerous!!!”

I don’t know how on earth this billboard could be seen as “anti-government” and “violent”.  The billboard depicts four members of Congress and calls them idiots. It doesn’t attack the government, it doesn’t call for violence. But gun control groups will do everything they can to portray gun owners as awful people, and this is just another example.

To me, the most divisive part of this whole story isn’t the billboard, it’s the fact that Cherokee Guns is apparently giving away bumper sticker versions of the billboard to customers, but only if they eat a piece of bacon first. A Facebook post by Cherokee Guns reads in part:

Alright my fellow Infidels for Trump…due to OVERWHELMING demand…you may come by the shop (next week) and get your very own FOUR HORSEMEN COMETH STICKER…simple…eat a piece of bacon…tell us you’re voting for Trump in 2020…then get your limited edition bumper sticker!! (While supplies last!) Snowflakes and Liberals are not eligible…sorry…

I love bacon as much as anyone. In fact, I’ve raised my own hogs and made bacon from their bellies and it’s one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten. But when you tell “infidels” to come in and eat a piece of bacon in exchange for a bumper sticker, it’s not a stretch to see that as a dig at the religion of at least one of the “Four Horsemen”.

As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t about whether Cherokee Guns has the right to engage in these types of marketing tactics. They absolutely do. The owner says the controversy has led to increased sales at his shop, and I’m sure that’s true. From a sales perspective, the week’s worth of press attention has been a huge boon to the gun shop. I’m not sure it’s been so great for gun rights.

When I first moved to rural Virginia after nearly a decade in the D.C. suburbs, one of the first things we did was get three American Guinea Hogs. We raised them from tiny little “bacon seeds” to full grown hogs, each about 200 pounds. We knew we weren’t ready to process them ourselves, so we called on a local processor instead. The first time we met him he eyed us a bit suspiciously, and I don’t blame him. We were outsiders. We were from D.C. (or at least close enough). My wife had flaming red hair and about ten piercings in her ears. To him, we represented unwelcome change in his county.

A few days later, when we picked up our bellies, chops, and chunks of pork to be turned into sausage, however, we had a conversation with him that’s stuck with me ever since. He came right out and told us that he didn’t know what to think of us when we first met. He’s a Mennonite farmer who’s family has lived in our rural county for generations and we’re… not that.  Still, he said, he realized that if “people like me are going to get to stay here, it’s because people like you come here.” Rural America is shrinking, and every new neighbor means continued survival of his way of life, and the life of his community.

I feel the same way when it comes to our 2nd Amendment rights. Gun owners are a minority in this country. We can’t afford to turn off or turn away potential allies just because they might be different than we are. That’s not how rights work anyway. If you’re a rural Christian gun owner, you need to be fighting just as hard for the 2nd Amendment rights of a Muslim in Dearborn, Michigan. It’s not just your individual right you’re fighting for, it’s our individual rights.  The right to keep and bear arms isn’t just the right of rural white guys like me. It’s the right of all law-abiding Americans, regardless of color, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and even political affiliation. Of course we should call out anti-gun politicians, but we should call them out for being anti-gun. If I want my rights to be strong, I need all the allies I can get, even if I disagree with them on all kinds of other issues.

Or, to put it another way: If people like me are going to get to stay here in 2A-land, it’s because people who aren’t like me come to 2A-land as well. I happen to be a conservative white rural male gun owner in his 40’s, but if you’re not and you still want to learn to shoot, I’m happy to help. Cherokee Guns has every right to market themselves in ways that may make some potential customers uncomfortable or even unwelcome, but I believe that the 2A community at large needs to be as welcoming as possible to any American interested in exploring their right to keep and bear arms, or else risk becoming an insular and shrinking part of the American electorate. If that happens, it will be even easier for well-funded gun control groups to pick apart our rights, one law at a time.