PHOENIX (KNXV/CNN) - The owner of an Arizona gun store says a back-to-school advertisement criticized by some customers for invoking the idea of a school shooting was not intended to encourage violence.
Brian Smith is the owner of Tombstone Tactical, a Phoenix-based firearm store that opened in 2010. Every week, he sends out a newsletter to more than 200,000 customers.
But the newsletter he sent Sunday morning received more attention than he expected. It included an advertisement for a program called “Shoot now, Pay later,” with which customers can get no interest for nine months on many different types of firearms.
Underneath the name of the program, Smith wrote, “Now that the kids are back in school, it’s a perfect time to take advantage of some great specials.”
Marty Ryan, a customer from New Mexico, read the newsletter Monday morning. The wording of the ad made him think about school shootings, and he felt it could be seen as encouraging one.
"I cannot believe these guys put this together as a promotion, especially when they use the words, ‘Now that the kids are back in school, let’s have an assault rifle sale,’” Ryan said. “How that could be missed is shocking.”
Ryan is a gun owner but says the threat of a school shooting is something that’s always in his family’s thoughts. His daughter is an elementary school teacher, and his grandkids returned to school Monday.
"It's always in the back of our heads,” he said. “It's something that scares all of us."
Ryan emailed the store, and Smith says he personally replied, apologizing and explaining there had been a misunderstanding.
"There's no way we would ever encourage violence at all,” Smith said.
Smith says the intention behind the ad was instead to urge parents to treat themselves, now that their kids have gone back to school.
"We just spent a bunch of money on our kids,” Smith said. “Now, it’s time to spend a little bit of money on ourselves.”
Smith apologizes for the ad but is confident most of his customers did not misinterpret the promotion. He says he received only three negative responses to the newsletter.
However, Smith says at Tombstone Tactical, they go out of their way to promote gun safety, and they will now do a safety check on future emails.
"We probably will look at our emails a little bit better before we send them out,” he said.
Ryan says that despite Smith’s promises, he is now a former customer, as a matter of principle.