Irradiated by Stingray
Since a benefit of registering with the 2nd Amendment Blog Bash for the recently concluded NRA convention in Phoenix was that we received actual media credentials, I felt it seemed only reasonable that I should attempt some act of actual investigation or reporting. I’d planned on the basic “Ok, here’s the convention, here’s something interesting” that every other blogger was planning on, but when I was looking through the map of the convention floor, I noticed something rather surprising and came up with a better idea.
H-S Precision had a booth on the show floor.
For those who may have missed the kerfluffle the last time around, H-S Precision is a stock maker that has fallen out of favor with large portions of the shooting community. Why has that happened, you ask? Because on last year’s catalog, they included a product endorsement by Lon Horiuchi. The linked wikipedia article is naturally a tad dry, and of course subject to the inherent drawbacks of being a Wikipedia article. LawDog has a more succinct summation of the incident in question, which I strongly suggest you read if you haven’t already. In fact, I strongly suggest you find a longer version as well, because the events surrounding Vicki Weaver’s death at Ruby Ridge at the hands of Lon Horiuchi can only be described, and this is the polite version, as “clusterfuck.” The short-short version is that Lon Horiuchi unlawfully shot and killed an unarmed woman during a standoff. When brought up on manslaughter charges, the FBI basically said “Nuh-uh. You can’t prosecute him.” and whisked him away to let him help foul up the Waco standoff, but that’s a separate fuckup.
After the shooting community noticed this rather galling endorsement, H-S Precision sat on their corporate hands for about a week and a half. Contrast this with Remington, who began responding to emails (as their products used some of HSP’s products) the very Saturday this all hit the fan, and have responded to other controversies with similar speed. After eventually deciding that using a product endorsement from a known and rather despised individual who could fairly be described as a murderer, they removed the endorsement and technically issued an apology. In reality, the apology was a very small graphical link on their website, and nothing else, to a statement essentially asserting “Fine, no endorsements from anyone will appear.” In other words, not actually an apology.
Backstory out of the way, let’s skip back to today. On noticing the H-S Precision booth on the NRA Convention floor map, I was genuinely curious about a few things. How on earth could Horiuchi have passed any company’s vetting process? ANY entry into google alone will bring up countless flags screaming “Not an ideal celebrity endorsement,” let alone the notion that any company would want to actively associate with the government actions at Ruby Ridge and Waco. Why wasn’t there any sort of actual apology? Is Horiuchi still affiliated in any way with the company, just not published as such? Media pass in hand, I felt it appropriate to try to get some answers.
Now before I press on, I have an unfortunate confession. I went into the interview at their booth with a voice recorder going. As it turns out, the recorder was malfunctioning, and while it indicated it was saving the interview for posterity, all it was really doing was creating a zero byte length file and wandering off to have a smoke and coffee. For once having an inkling of common sense spring to my head, I jotted down notes on everything once the interview (all sixty seconds of it) was concluded, but I would very much have liked to have H-S Precision’s own personnel offer their opinions in their own words here.
When I approached the booth, the first person I spoke to was a product specialist, and I was routed to the company PR man standing next to him. Damnably trusting my recorder, I didn’t get names on anybody. I asked if I could ask him a few questions, recorder in plain view, about the company and its policies, and he agreed.
“Sir, I have a few questions about your company’s vetting process. A few months ago there was an incident in which your spokesman was rather inadvisably selected, given the response from the shooting community. How does someone like that make it through your internals and onto the catalog?”
The convention floor was noisy and this took a second to sink in, but once it did his expression shifted instantly from friendly and eager to discuss to angry and downright furtive as he glanced around to see if anyone else was looking or recording.
“No comment. That never happened. He was never affiliated with us. No comment. Move along. We do not include product testimonials.” Added emphasis mine. He continued to chant the “no comment” talisman while making sure the other two H-S Precision employees got the notion that they should keep quiet too.
“What about the apology? Your company didn’t even — ” At this point, a white haired
gentleman male stepped forward, visibly angry.
“What about an apology? Did they apologize for killing a US Marshall?”
“Did Vickie Weaver shoot him? Did the baby do it?”
“Well she was there! She knew damn well — ” at this point he was very animated and going red in the face. The original company spokesman tossed a few more “No comment!”s at me and physically removed the other individual to the back of the booth. The product rep I originally spoke to informed me that the interview was over and told me to leave the booth.
“You don’t have any answers for any of this?”
“No comment. You need to leave.”
As the white-haired defender of Horiuchi, who for reference I specifically never mentioned by name, had looked entirely willing and gearing up to physically hit me when the other rep moved him to the back of the booth, we did so. I later stopped by the McMillan booth to ask them about the incident. After waiting about five minutes just to speak to any rep at all, I was introduced to the daughter of the company owner. She very politely declined comment, although the gentleman who introduced me had responded to my questions as we walked around the booth that “Yeah, a lot of people had, um, ‘opinions’ on that incident…” I will point out that he technically said nothing either for or against H-S Precision.
Finally, since I’m not actually a professional journalist and thus not expected to even pretend to be fair and even handed, it’s time for your moment of schadenfreude. Below is a map of the NRA Convention showroom floor. I’ve circled the location of the H-S Precision booth in red, and the McMillan booth in green. Yes, the size disparity was even more striking in person. Click for big, it’ll help.
It’s also worth noting that at the H-S Precision booth all I had to do to speak to a representative was interrupt his coffee and conversation with the other reps. At the McMillan booth, they were popular enough that even though they had roughly four times the staff, I still had to wait about five minutes before it was my turn to get anybody’s ear. I had a good view of H-S Precision’s booth for a solid 20 minutes while standing in a line for something unrelated to this post, and during that entire time I still didn’t see anybody approach them.