Gun sales. Sexism. Journalism. Ignorance. Well, those last two are becoming more and more intertwined these days, but let’s see what we can’t do about the rest of it, shall we?
Last week, I covered a story out of Green Bay, WI in which Mark Leland, a local reporter with WLUK Fox11, included the following information in his investigative report on the rise in Wisconsin gun sales:
After Leland’s segment aired and his article posted to WLUK’s Facebook page, I followed up with Perry Sarto, the owner of Badger Gun Sales, to fact check Leland’s report after seeing viewers weren’t focused on gun sales or the impressive job gun owners in the Frozen Tundra are doing to mentor new gun owners, but instead, had their crosshairs sighted in on the man who allegedly made the sexist comment:
I asked Sarto point blank if he ever told Mark Leland or anyone with WLUK Fox11 that he ‘will not sell a handgun to a woman without her first getting trained’.
“No,” he replied sternly. “Look, I promote gun safety, so everyone who comes through my door is going to hear the same thing from me: get trained, take a class, look into extended training courses – I’ve never said anything different to anybody regardless of sex, color, creed or race.”
End of story?
I’m afraid not.
I missed a phone call from Leland this morning, but he shared an interesting update on this story with my voicemail box. Shocked at what he was claiming, I immediately reached out to Perry who told me Leland had called him recently as well. However, his call was so polar opposite of mine, I jumped in my car and headed on over to Badger Gun Sales because frankly, I had to see Perry’s face when he heard the voicemail.
And so do you:
The editor’s note Leland mentioned and posted on his report wasn’t much of a clarification as to what really happened either:
Show of hands: How many of you return to a story the week after you read it? Exactly.
For the handful of readers who may have caught the note Leland added today, his clarification was anything but clarifying. “We apologize if such an inference was made“? First of all, the inference was made in the form of a statement, so nobody was left questioning anything. Secondly, Leland’s “correction” didn’t apologize to Sarto for the damage his reporting had already caused Perry’s personal and professional reputation nor did he take responsibility for reporting what Sarto adamantly denied. Even going so far as to claim Perry had acknowledged there was ‘some miscommunication on his part’ in their initial phone conversation and alleged Perry ‘made a clarification’ which was (I’m assuming) supposed to be reflected in the editor’s note.
The bottom line is, Perry’s ‘clarification’ was that Leland’s report is blatantly false, yet this ‘fair and balanced’ reporter continues to claim “as far as my reporting, it’s completely accurate the way it went down.”
Well, in the interest of accuracy, I tracked down two women who recently bought firearms from Perry. What they had to say further clarifies exactly what kind of local business owner Perry Sarto really is.
Michelle LaCount started looking for a firearm around the first of the year, but took her time before pulling the trigger on purchasing her first gun.
“I didn’t know anything about guns when I went into Perry’s store,” LaCount said. “Perry walked me through everything, he said he wanted to make sure the gun fit me and asked what I wanted to use it for. He really took his time with me, explaining everything to me on quite a few guns, even making sure I could work the slide and spent more than an hour with me that first time I went in.”
The 45-year-old said that at the time, she was still unsure about spending so much money on a firearm and left Perry’s store in January without buying anything, but said, “Perry told me that was fine and that he didn’t want me to buy something just to buy something, he wanted me to be sure of my purchase. He also told me I could come back if I had any more questions and made sure I had his card in case I wanted to call.”
Over the next few months, her search for a gun took her to a few other gun stores in the area, Nelson’s and Cabela’s, but she said neither of them spoke to her like a valued customer or took a fraction of the amount of time Perry had spent with her. As she followed the election coverage closely over the summer, it ultimately drove her to pull the trigger on buying a gun. The thought of life under President Hillary Clinton drove LaCount back into Badger Gun Sales in August where she finally become a new gun owner.
“Again, Perry was just the most helpful person,” LaCount recalled. “He wasn’t a pushy sales guy and he never said he wouldn’t sell me a gun unless I took training. He just told me if I was interested in learning more about guns, there was a local chapter of the Well Armed Woman in Green Bay and that they have an ongoing training program.”
LaCount did attend a meeting and said the chapter’s leader, Rita Boucher, even took her to a local range for a 1-on-1 training session to help her work on her shooting – on her own time.
“I’m so glad Perry pointed me in their direction, but he never pressured me into it or made me do anything before he sold me my gun,” LaCount said.
23-year-old Tori Johnson was encouraged to head into Perry’s store after her husband Troy bought his first gun there.
“I came in and told Perry I was shopping for my first gun and that I was really interested in a Desert Eagle,” Troy Johnson told me. “He told me he wouldn’t recommend that for me, and I was like, ‘you wouldn’t recommend I buy a $2000 gun?’ and he said, ‘I wouldn’t recommend that gun for anybody’s first firearm, but let’s see what we can get you started on, how’s that?’. Perry was more interested in making sure the gun was right for me than making a $2000 sale off me. He’s a good guy.”
Troy’s wife Tori’s experience was refreshingly similar to Michelle’s.
“When I bought my first gun from Perry, he was so kind and considerate,” Tori said. “I literally walked in and didn’t know anything about guns, but Perry never asked me about my training, he just took his time and got me fit with the right gun for my hand and what I wanted to use it for.”
Tori, who has an Associate’s Degree in early education, said during the hour and a half she spent in his store that day, Perry was focussed on making sure the gun she bought was one she’d be both happy and proficient with.
“Perry made me feel welcome in his store, I felt very comfortable. He really took the time to talk to and work with me, he was very patient and walked me through his suggestions for what would fit me, not his bottom line.”
Tori also said Perry mentioned the Well Armed Woman’s training program as a resource – not as a requirement.
“He pointed to their flyer by the door and let me know they had an ongoing training program if I was interested.” Although Tori said she hasn’t had time to attend a meeting, she has had time to spread the word about Badger Gun Sales.
“We tell everyone to go see Perry, most of our family are customers of his now, too!”
Thanks to Perry, LaCount is now the proud owner of a Ruger LC9. Troy Johnson was fitted with a Beretta M9 and his wife Tori with a Ruger SR22. Troy still wants to buy a Desert Eagle, and said when he’s ready, he’ll definitely take his business back to Badger Gun Sales.
But was Perry’s advice on training fair and balanced? Yes it was. Troy said Perry let him know about NWTC’s firearms training classes including a great basic pistol course, but clarified he was not required to complete any of them before purchasing his gun.
It’s blatantly obvious Perry Sarto is one of the good guys. Not only does he genuinely care about his customers and is acting as a champion of gun safety and firearms training, he genuinely did not deserve the backlash WLUK Fox11’s Mark Leland’s reporting brought him and his business. What he does deserve is a direct apology, an immediate retraction and an attempt to show even an ounce of remorse for what this unethical behavior has done to him.
This reporter had an amazing opportunity to shine a spotlight on how gun owners, including gun store owners, are helping women responsibly arm themselves for protection and being faithful stewards of gun safety in our communities. Instead, he has managed to twist it into some perverted attack against a local small business owner over a sexist policy he neither proclaimed to have nor does he practice.
That’s not reporting, that’s reprehensible.
Are you as outraged as I am?
(and speak up, please – your messages and phone calls do make a difference)