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Valley gun store criticized for “back to school” wording in promotion

Posted at 10:03 PM, Aug 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-13 07:43:09-04

PHOENIX — A Valley gun shop is drawing some attention and customer criticism for their use of the phrase “back to school” in a promotion email.

The Phoenix-based firearm store Tombstone Tactical has been open since 2010. Every week, owner Brian Smith sends a weekly newsletter to more than 200,000 customers.

“We have a very large online presence,” said Smith.

On Saturday morning, Smith hit send on a newsletter promoting the store's latest deal.

"The title of the program is called ‘Shoot now, pay later,'" said Smith, explaining the "no interest for nine months" program he was promoting.

Underneath the words "shoot now, pay later," Smith wrote: “Now that the kids are back in school, it’s a perfect time to take advantage of some great specials that we have priced to be the lowest available in the country.”

Some customers were not happy with the promoted deal.

“How that could be missed is’s shocking,” said Marty Ryan, a customer from New Mexico who read the newsletter Monday morning when he got into work.

“I cannot believe these guys put this together as a promotion. Especially when they use the phrase, 'now that the kids are back in school, let’s have an assault rifle sale,'” said Ryan.

(Note: the “sale” is a promotion for zero interest and involves many firearms, not just rifles.)

Ryan is a gun owner, but his daughter is a second-grade teacher and his grandkids went back to school on Monday.

“[A school shooting] is always in the back of our heads. It scares all of us,” Ryan said.

Ryan emailed the store, and Smith said he personally replied explaining the confusion and offering apologies.

“There is no way we would ever encourage violence at all,” said Smith.

The small business owner says he is confident most customers did not misinterpret the promotion.

“The idea of the email was to highlight, we just spent a bunch of money on our kids - now it’s time to spend a little bit of money on ourselves,” said Smith. “I would apologize to anyone who took offense to that. We sent that email out to well over 200,000 people and I only received three negative responses to that email.”

With the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton less than 10 days old, the gun industry is once again facing scrutiny.

“With what’s going on these days, and all these crazy mad men with rifles, they should’ve known not to include weapons in schools and all that,” said Jariel Aguilera, who was in the store with his sister.

Tombstone Tactical says they go out of their way to promote gun safety, and will now do a safety check on future emails.

“In the future, we will probably look at our emails a little bit better before we send them out,” said Smith.

Most customers told ABC15 they think the email was an honest mistake and will continue to buy from the store, but Ryan said that, on principle, he will be a former customer.