It’s a Misperception That Firearms Aren’t Safe, Gun Shop Owner Says

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Geneva Solomon is co-owner of Redstone Firearms in Burbank and Ontario, California, where she and her husband not only sell firearms but teach gun safety. 

Solomon joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to tell how she became passionate about gun ownership and safety. She also discusses her recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and why universal background checks will not lead to fewer crimes committed with guns. 

Geneva Solomon, co-owner of Redstone Firearms. (Photo: Trevor A)

Also on today’s show, Heritage Foundation education fellow Lindsey Burke joins us to explain a big win for West Virginia families seeking to make their own choices about their children’s education. And as always, we’ll crown our Problematic Woman of the Week. 

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript. 

Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to be joined by Geneva Solomon, co-owner of Redstone Firearms in California. Geneva Solomon, welcome to the show.

Geneva Solomon: Thanks for having me.

Allen: So, you and your husband own Redstone Firearms together. So I want to start with a little bit of your story. How did you first get involved with firearms? Did you grow up learning how to shoot? What was that initiation and initial interest in firearms?

Solomon: I didn’t grow up in an anti-gun family, but we didn’t talk about firearms when I was growing up. My father was injured by a firearm actually when I was very small. He ended up having a permanent life injury due to him being shot. So, we just didn’t talk about it when I was growing up. And then when I moved out, went off to college, I ended up getting married and had a child. And unfortunately, got married young and it didn’t work out. It was a very toxic environment.

And during that process, it became very domestically violent. And because of that, I had decided that, “Hey, you know what, I am my own first responder. I have a daughter, it is my responsibility to make sure that she has protection.” And so I talked to the people that were close in my life, my father, friends, and none of them were very like, “Yes, you should be thinking this way.”

They were more so like, “Well, be careful and you’re being paranoid.” And so, I’m very strong-minded and I went and did it anyway. And I went and did it alone. And it was a weird experience, because at the time there was no Redstone Firearms in California. There was no gun store that I knew of that approached firearms from an educational standpoint. And so I went into a gun store. I’m a black woman. I walk into a gun store, I have all these questions and it was just a terrible experience, to be honest with you.

And three hours later, I decided on a firearm by just looking at it, which, fast forward, now to me is a terrible way to decide on a firearm. But that was just the culture of that process back then.

Fast forward, I meet my husband. I was now a registered owner of three guns. We actually talked about guns on our first date, because he grew up with firearms. So it was very important to him. And then we got married and we had this whole “gun thing” wedding, which was funny. Hindsight, it’s funny. And then later into the marriage, about a year and a half, two years into the marriage, we [had] courted each other over firearms, and we’re like, “Hey, we’re buying guns all the time. Why don’t we just apply for the license?” So we did. And it just spiraled into what we have now, which is [owning] a gun store.

Allen: So talk a little bit more about that journey of actually deciding to make this passion into a business, because [with] so many people we have things that interest us that maybe even we’re passionate about with our spouse, but to actually take that step into making that our career, our own business, that’s a big leap.

Solomon: I studied business in college, and I come from a family of entrepreneurs. And I’m not saying that’s the reason, but my husband was in law enforcement and things just weren’t going the way that he wanted to go. He wanted to go into different things and things just weren’t working out. And I looked at him and I said, “You know what, it’s best to do something that you love.”

And so, I told that to him because he had, and still has, such a passion for firearms, for shooting, competitive shooting, building, and things of that nature. And so, once we got that license and said, “You know what, we’re just going to test the waters out and do this for family and friends.”

Then the creative juices started to flow. I said, “You know what, the Geneva that went into the gun store many years ago and no one would help her–let me find a way to do that.”

And so that’s where the classes became brainstorm because I wanted to make sure that if I ran across someone that was just like me many years ago, that their questions could be answered. That’s where the whole branding of consult, educate, train came from. And approaching buying firearms and self-defense from an educational perspective, and we’ve been doing it for so long. And then all of a sudden now there’s this huge thirst for it.

Allen: What are some of those classes that you all offer? If I walk in to Redstone Firearms and I say, “I want to buy a gun, but I’ve never owned a gun before,” how would you handle me as a customer? What would you recommend I do? What classes would you offer to me?

Solomon: So there’s a class that I’ve called my baby. I built it. It’s a two-hour class. It’s now online due to COVID and I like it. And I call that my online basic firearms class. And literally, it talks about: How do you buy a firearm? What do you need to do the day you show up? What does that [Form] 4473 look like? What are they asking for?

Then we go into buying ammo, because that’s highly regulated here. Then we get into the six fundamental firearm safety rules, and then I really show you how to load and unload a firearm by video. But I also bring out a non-loaded gun and then I break down: “These are the things you should be asking when you go into the firearms store.” How hard is it for you to drop the magazine? How hard is it for you to lock the slide back?

And then I just really break it down from a beginner perspective, so that you have an overall great knowledge of, “This is how I approach this in California. This is the legal way to do it. This is where I go to find training.” I talk about traveling. I talk about when you can use deadly force and at the end, I wrap up and talk about what are the next steps? What can prevent you from passing a background check, and things of that.

And then I simply say, “Are you ready to become a responsible gun owner?” Because at the end of the class, you can say, “No, I’m not.” Or, “Yes, I am.”

Allen: What do you think is one of society’s greatest misperceptions about firearms?

Solomon: That they’re unsafe and that if there’s a gun in the home, you’re going to die by a firearm. And another misconception is that if you’re black or African American with a firearm, you’re very problematic, you’re violent.

Allen: And is that misperception, do you think, truly only overcome through training?

Solomon: No. I think there’s a history that needs to be talked about, noticed and healed from, because there’s a systematic oppression when it comes to firearms. And when we talk about gun control and [the] many measures that have been put into place, and then over time that have been reinvented and blanketed [as] not being racist, but … truly [are], we have to address that. There’s no way to talk about it unless we address it head on.

And that’s the only way to get to the root of the problem that, “Hey, if you’re a black with a firearm, it’s abnormal, but if you’re not black with a firearm, it’s normal.” So we really need to get to that because it’s creating problems.

Allen: Well, that certainly opens up this broader conversation of legislation. And obviously, the gun control debate is not a new debate. And every time we see, as we saw just recently and tragically in Colorado and in Atlanta, gun violence take the life of individuals, that always reignites this conversation of, “OK, what do we do after these incidents happen? And how can we prevent future incidents from happening like this?”

And the Senate is currently considering legislation to try to limit gun violence in America. But many Second Amendment advocates are really concerned that the policies being considered, such as universal background checks, that they won’t lead to less gun violence but only limit law-abiding Americans from owning firearms. So, you testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on this issue, what was your message to Congress?

Solomon: … Going back to what I just said about history, [about] gun control when someone looks like me, essentially, which is if you put it into perspective: “You’re [a] Democratic or liberal voter, right?” They say the black woman is the face of the Democratic Party; sometimes they say that. And we’re over here saying, “Hey, when you say gun control, what that says to us is you’re trying to prevent us [from owning firearms], or you’re putting a price tag on people who look like me to protect themselves.”

And I really wanted to drive home that messaging, that there are a lot of new gun owners out here that are African American or black or however they identify, that maybe don’t understand gun control. But they’re starting to notice it now because of how it’s going to adversely affect them now that they have [a gun] …

Maybe they were fearful because of the pandemic. Maybe they were fearful because of all the civil unrest and they finally woke up and said, “Hey, 911 is not going to protect me, but now here you’re saying I may lose the ability to protect myself in the way that I chose due to this legislation.”

Allen: So then what policies should be implemented? We’re hearing all of these kinds of ideas thrown out like universal background checks. Would that actually limit gun violence?

Solomon: I don’t believe that universal background checks will limit gun violence. Now, you have to understand I’m coming from a place of California, and California already has the book on universal background checks, right? We could get denied a firearm or a customer could get denied a firearm for having an unpaid traffic ticket. … Actually, let me resay: You could be rejected, not denied, [for] having an unpaid traffic ticket that’s delinquent.

And to me, that is an infringement. What does one have to do with the other? Would we go into universal background checks, I understand that that’s hard for a lot of people because it then creates that gun registration.

For someone like me sitting in California, I’m like, “We already are there and it’s still not stopping the violence that’s happening.” California has essentially already started to create their gun registration by [instituting] the ammo background check. I don’t know if you’re aware of that. That’s essentially created a gun registration. It’s backdooring it, but it’s already happening.

So I say to people … “OK, we’re against it.” We really got to start being heavy-handed, because California has found a way to uniquely get around creating a gun registry by saying, “Well, they’re going to put in an ammo background check.” Which is not really a background check, but that’s what they’re going to end up saying.

So it’s very problematic, because I truly feel that if you bought your firearm legally, then the government doesn’t have a right to know that you have that gun as long as you haven’t committed some sort of act to get it taken away from you.

Allen: So, compared to other states, how strict is California on the process you have to go through to buy a gun, to keep that gun, so on and so forth?

Solomon: … I always approach a conversation and say I can meet people on the other side of the road, right? You have your anti-gun and you have your pro-gun. And I can be on both sides and maybe empathize if I could. California is probably not the hardest, because New York is pretty up there.

But the messaging for California is … California, they play a game to me essentially where they’ll say, “OK, the state legislators or the citizens of California want gun control.” Right? That’s what they will say. But then they’ll put out different rules where they’ll say, “Different ZIP codes can do different things.”

And that’s where I have a problem. Because … the legislators of California as a whole are saying, “Well, we’re anti-gun.” Right? But then you get into ZIP codes where you have more affluent people that make a little bit more money and are of a different demographic, they have easier access to a concealed carry weapons permit.

But then you look at other ZIP codes where it’s more black and brown people, and they don’t have the same level of access that people in the other areas do. That’s a problem. The process to purchase a firearm is standard across the board. There’s a test you have to take, I don’t have a problem with it. I see the legal reason behind it. It’s 25 bucks.

But then the problem with California is we have the handgun roster where essentially they’re trying to disarm all the California citizens. It’s saying, “If the gun doesn’t meet this specification, and if the manufacturer doesn’t pay us this money, then it can’t be sold here. And only older guns can be sold in California.” To me, that’s actually more dangerous than giving California citizens access to newer guns with newer technology, [which] could be safer.

So, the process to buy a gun to me isn’t incredibly hard, outside of some of the small infringements that they make upon you like waiting 10 days. California also says that if they need more time, they can take an additional 20 days. So, that’s a total of 30 days, and if you’re a victim of domestic violence that could be a scary time for you. So I’m not a fan of that. But taking the test, it’s not a problem to get your permit to purchase or your FSC [firearms safety certificate]. And the background check I think is fair as well. But other than that, there are some things that we could change here.

Allen: When it comes to really thinking about solutions, … what would be some things that you would want to see our leaders really take action on?

Solomon: I really wouldn’t like them to … When we talk about guns and the violence being committed, we need to then start to focus on why that violence is happening. Why is that person or that group committing these crimes? And we spoke about that at the Senate Judiciary meeting with the doctor, talking about going into the communities, having the conversations. I say a lot that it’s easier to get access to a firearm, even with how restrictive it is in California. We’ll put it into perspective. It’s easier to go out and get a gun than it is to go say, “I need help for mental reasons” here in California.

And that would blow people’s minds away because you would think it’s such a Democratic state and we care about people. And we’re, I guess, toward socialism is what it’s called, but you drive down the street and you see rows and rows of homelessness. You see loads and loads of people suffering and needing to find their next meal.

And California has such a high tax rate. You’re starting to think, “OK, wait a minute. If all the taxpayers are paying all this money, and then we have people that are starving and the crime rate is going up.” We continue to legislate and legislate, and we’re legislating the wrong group of people when we really should be focusing on another population.

Allen: And what role do you think that kind of mental health conversation plays in the acts of violence that we see when there is a tragedy like what happened in Boulder, Colorado?

Solomon: That’s such a wide scope. Mental health is not just depression. It’s growing up in poverty, it could be being bullied in school. It’s having access to be able to say, “Hey, I’m having a problem. I need help.” And not making it so expensive to get that help.

I know personally here in California that they had mental health facilities that were free at one point, and then California closed them down. And what their solution was was to put those people in jail. Well, that creates an even bigger problem because that mental health issue is not going to get better when in prison or jail. …

To me, it adds more to the overall violence. But I’m not a doctor and that’s not my specialty, I’m just saying from a personal standpoint, we got to start focusing on what’s causing people to utilize acts of violence. Because whether it’s the gun or a knife or a bomb, something is causing that person to want to harm large amounts of people, and why is that?

Allen: Why do you think that this is such a bipartisan issue?

Solomon: Because everyone has a human right, [a] God-given right to protect themselves. You have your own right to take care of your babies, yourself, your loved ones. And yes, it’s great to have our law enforcement officers that’ll come rescue us in the event of … But depending on where you live, that timeframe could be 60 seconds or that timeframe can be 14 minutes. And so everybody, regardless of what ZIP code you live in, how much money you make, you have a right to be able to fight for your life to live.

Allen: Communicating obviously is such a big deal [in] getting that unity within Congress, within leadership, to find those areas of agreement so we can move forward, [it’s] so critical on this issue. Personally, do you have people in your life, whether it be friends or family, who maybe don’t agree with you on the gun issue? And if so, how do you have those conversations with them?

Solomon: Well, you would have to imagine that prior to 2020, there were a lot more people that thought I was crazy, so to speak, because I wanted to [have a] concealed carry weapons permit when I left the house and things of that nature. And I travel with my gun when I go on business trips, right?

And they always said, “Oh, you’re paranoid, you’re paranoid, you’re paranoid.” And I’m like, “I’m not paranoid, because anything can happen at any given moment. And I want to be able to have a fighting chance to survive.”

But I always say, “Hey, we don’t have to agree.” Both sides should be able to say, “You know what? You can choose whatever method you want to protect yourself. If that’s 911, I’m OK with that. If it’s a baseball bat, I’m OK with that.

As long as you learn what you’re doing with it and you don’t use it incorrectly, and you keep it out of harm’s way for the children to get to, so that they don’t harm themselves, [then] I’m OK with it. So if I’m OK with you choosing the way that you want to protect yourself; you should be OK with the way that I want to protect mine.

Allen: Absolutely. Mrs. Solomon, thank you so much for your time today. We just really appreciate your coming on. This is such a critical issue. Obviously, one that’s highly emotional for a lot of people, but such a needed conversation to be having right now. So thank you for your time.

Solomon: You’re very welcome. Thanks for inviting me.

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