In March 2015, Citizen Potawatomi Nation welcomed the BDC Gun Room under a HEARTH Act lease. Thanks to the federal legislation, private companies that have long been unable or unwilling to invest in Indian Country now have a streamlined process to do business on federal trust land. The Hownikan spoke with BDC Gun Room owner and CPN Tribal member Jack Barrett about the first year working under the HEARTH Act and what is in store for the future.
Looking back at your first year at the new location, how would you rate the progress BDC Gun Room has made?
“We have had a good year. All new businesses and big expansions face a tough road their first year and we are no different. Learning new systems, developing policies and procedures takes a lot of time and hard work. Thankfully, I have an amazing staff that work hard, solve problems and come up with innovative ideas.
“Sales were not as high as I had planned, but we met our financial obligations to the Nation and kept our customers happy. Our primary goal when we opened was to maintain and even improve the level of customer service we were already known for. In that, I feel we have done exceedingly well. We have earned thousands of new, loyal customers and kept our long-time customers as well. I’m very proud of my staff for that in particular, because they are the ones providing our customers with great service.”
You’ve been in the business for a while, but were there any issues or trends that you encountered in this first year that you didn’t see coming?
“The downturn in the economy as a whole, particularly in the oil and gas industry, put a bit of a damper on sales. When oil prices are low, we don’t sell as many of the big ticket items. Having started in the business during, and worked through, some crazy times with regard to availability of merchandise, our planning and position in the marketplace has helped insulate us from most of that.
“One thing that we were surprised by was the huge increase in enrollment in our Oklahoma SDA (handgun license) and ‘Defensive Handgun 1’ classes. We saw a steady increase through the year, but after the San Bernardino shootings, we had to double our class schedule and add a second instructor.”
Strictly speaking as a business owner, how do you view the HEARTH Act’s impact on your ability to operate as a private business on federal trust land?
“Mainly its biggest impact is enabling me to be a small part of the economic powerhouse and amazing recreational destination that is the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Leasing this property under the HEARTH Act does not give me a competitive advantage financially over another business not located on trust land, because I still charge the same sales tax as everyone else. The biggest advantage is that because those taxes go to the Nation, they are able to provide services and opportunities to businesses like mine that might not be available elsewhere.”
Tell us a bit about the types of shooting, both in terms of competitions and recreational, that BDC hosts on the shooting range?
“On any given day, we see new and experienced shooters of all ages come through to shoot for fun and hone their skills. From police officers to overseas security contractors and everything in between, we train and host a wide variety of groups and individuals.
“Last spring, we started our noon league competition. At first open to Tribal members and CPN employees and now open to everyone, the noon league is a difficult but light-hearted test of your handgun skills. Shooting at noon and at 6 p.m. once a week for eight weeks, competitors shoot handguns in everything from 22 to 45 calibers, all at 25 yards. It is the same format that many tribal members shot in the competition held during the Family Reunion Festival.
“On that note, I’ll remind my fellow members to sign up for the pistol match during the 2016 Family Reunion Festival, as more than $300 in prize money went unclaimed last year because we had no women shooters! Let’s go ladies!
“One of the things I am most excited about is the Girl Scouts of America Shooting Sports Program. In November, we began hosting a group of awesome young women from several troops here in Pottawatomie County. They learn about gun safety and proper use and handling of various firearms and meet once a month to shoot, compete and have fun! All shoot very well, but some are really, really good shots. Overall, teaching kids proper gun handling and safety is my biggest passion and my greatest joy.”
Can you tell us a bit about people interested in carry-conceal classes and learning more about firearms training?
“The people taking our handgun classes come from every walk of life. Young people who just turned 21 to the most senior of senior citizens, men and women alike. One thing we have noticed is that because of our reputation for the way we treat our female customers, we see many women attending, either on their own or with a group of friends, who would not feel at ease in a less welcoming environment.
“One thing we stress is that the concealed carry class is not a class on how to shoot your handgun. It is a class on how to legally carry and when you are allowed to use one in self-defense. We see people taking our ‘Defensive Handgun 1’ class as well as taking hourly individual instruction, so they can learn how to shoot well and gain the ability to effectively use their handgun to not just survive a lethal encounter, but to win.”
To learn more about BDC Gun Room, visit their location at 40960 Hardesty Rd, Shawnee, OK 74801 or visit them at www.bdcgunroom.com or their Facebook page.