He's A Democrat..And A Gun Shop Owner

Gun shop owner Michael Cargill
Austin gun shop owner Michael Cargill, 43, might not fit the popular image of the gun rights movement. He's gay and a Democrat. He didn't grow up hunting, or with guns in his home. In fact, his family shunned guns like many other black families -- a reaction, in part, to the harrowing rates of black-on-black homicide.

Cargill applied for a concealed-gun license 22 years ago, after his grandmother, who decided to get a nursing degree at the age of 70, was mugged and raped on the way home from the library. Now he runs Central Texas Gun Works in Austin, which specializes in concealed weapons. And while a recent poll shows six out of 10 Americans support stricter gun control laws, Cargill believes strongly that all law-abiding Americans should have a right to carry a gun for self-defense.

Guns 'Do Actually Save Lives'

On Sunday, Cargill auctioned off a Bushmaster, the same firearm used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in order to raise money for medical treatments for the baby daughter of one of his employees. Cargill told Austin TV station KTBC that he hopes "to prove that guns do actually save lives."

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That's why Cargill, a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army, became a gun safety instructor. Anyone in Texas who wants a license to carry a concealed handgun must take 10-hour certification course, and Cargill's classes -- which he began out of his living room -- were an instant hit. "People knew my intentions were good," he says.

More: Gun-To-Work Laws Proliferate, Despite Mass Shootings

Cargill now teaches thousands of gun owners a year, focusing on de-escalation skills, conflict resolution, and how to stay within the parameters of the law. It took him years to find someone willing to rent him a storefront, he says, partly because he wanted to sell guns, and partly because he was black.

Gun Shop Owner Turns Away Customers Who Seem 'Jittery'

Cargill's goal is to make sure guns end up in well-meaning, well-trained hands, and he takes this very seriously. "As a gun store owner it's my responsibility to be a part of that step to keep everyone safe," says Cargill, who at least twice a month will refuse to sell a weapon to someone who appears suspicious.

Cargill carefully monitors his customers for anything shifty. "If they're not giving you eye contact, shifting their eyes around, jittery, or I smell marijuana or alcohol," he explains. "All signs that you should not have a firearm."

More: Workplace Violence: Is The Recession Inspiring Worker Rage?

Of course, many people who should not have firearms do. It's this tragic fact that drives Cargill's passion for selling guns, and training gun owners. "The only thing that's going to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he explains, adding that the gun laws currently on the books in Texas are "top notch."

'You Can't Legislate Crazy'

Making it harder for law-abiding citizens to buy a gun misses the point, Cargill says. "Timothy McVeigh took down federal building in Oklahoma, killed a little over 1,000 people. He used a rental truck, fertilizer and some other things," he says. "I didn't see us standing in front of Home Depot and Lowe's protesting fertilizer. You can't legislate crazy."

But we can improve the way we handle mental illness, he says. (The shooters responsible for the massacres at Virginia Tech and Fort Hood, and in Tucson, Aurora and Sandy Hook were all diagnosed with a mental illness, or reported to be mentally ill).

More: 10 Warning Signs Of Workplace Violence

As a Democrat, Cargill is a rarity among gun dealers. But Cargill doesn't think his profession is at odds with his liberal beliefs, and he's frustrated by some of the anti-gun arguments expressed by members of his own party.

"Stop trying to make people feel guilty about protecting themselves," he urges. "There's no way we're going to completely eliminate guns from the United States. That's not reality."

At Cargill's shop, you can also buy T-shirts with the slogan: "Buy a gun, annoy a liberal."

Watch: A former GOP lawmaker, who was blacklisted by the NRA, and a black, gay Democratic gun shop owner debate gun regulations (full story here).


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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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wjs27skeet

"Stop trying to make people feel guilty about protecting themselves," he urges. THAT SAYS IT ALL.

May 03 2013 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Harry Hurt

Yes, Andrew, guns are designed to kill. That is very proper if the intended victim is someone about to kill YOU. Guns don't kill. It is people being invaded, assaulted, or threatened that kill criminals. As they say in the Air Force, AIM HIGH!

April 19 2013 at 11:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ANDREW

Why on earth, would anybody need to carry a concealed gun....? As for criminals will always find/have guns is a crock of s*%t....was the mother of the guy who gunned the children down a criminal ????? Get a grip you bunch of sorry ass idiots ....guns were designed for one thing only... TO KILL !!!!!!!

February 02 2013 at 5:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jmaschak

A point not obvious, is that most lawful gun owners are incredibly tolerant of other peoples opinions and actions. So long as they don't interfere with opinions or actions, we are OK with it. I'm a straight, white, service sector employee and gun owner. I wish Michael well, hopes he has a wonderful life and great happiness. If he ever moves to New York, I'll welcome him to the neighborhood.

January 22 2013 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick

What does it matter if he is a Democrat, black or gay? Do any of those factors preclude him from owning a gun? Do all Democrats want to strip away the second ammendment or do all Republicans own guns and protest against any type of gun control? Can you be a Republican and be anti-guns or be a Democrat and have a gun? Do gays not own guns? News flash!!! Not all democrats (male, female, white, black, latino, straight, gay) agree with everything that the President says. Also not all republicans ( yes there are black, latino, and gay) disagree with everything the President does. HP needs to stop putting everyone into their little stereotype. Stupid article.

January 22 2013 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sam Rob

Great Work man.... We need as many blacks with legal guns as possible!!!!! Black panthers defended themselves in the 70s and lord Reagen Banned guns in public in Cali....

FUNNY baggers dont bring that up..

January 22 2013 at 1:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Steve

This was written on Jan 16th and it's still being reported that a Bushmaster AR15 was used at Sandy Hook. Why can't AOL get it's **** together and not be like the rest of the media?

January 21 2013 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steve's comment
davefbbac

because it was......

January 23 2013 at 8:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to davefbbac's comment
Ray

Only handguns used, dude. Bushmaster was in the trunk. Sheesh.

January 27 2013 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
fulman63

I have no ideal what his sexual preference has to do with liking guns or not, now being a democrat that is a gun enthusiast is surprising. His right to choose to own guns or be a democrate or even live the gay lifestyle that he chooses is his freedom granted by the constitution. That's what makes America the best country in the world.

January 21 2013 at 3:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Taffy

Most business owners are not Democrats, I know alot of democrats that like guns.
I know 2 gay people that own guns and like to go shooting. Alot of the republican party don't like gays that may be his reason for being a democrat. The best part of this story is that Michael Cargill is getting some free advertisment LOL Hope he make lots of money.

January 21 2013 at 2:57 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Eric

So a gun store owner is against gun control? Shocking!

January 21 2013 at 2:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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