August 1, 2017

For “The Gun Dude,” Gun Advocacy —And Safety— Begins With Background Checks

By Katanga Johnson

Josh Karrasch, the "gun dude," speaking at the Kojo In Your Community event on July 25.

Josh Karrasch, the "gun dude," speaking at the Kojo In Your Community event on July 25.

At The Gun Dude Cafe, a Falls Church guns store and coffee shop, background checks for private firearm sales cost $15 per gun. That was, until gun advocate and store owner Josh Karrasch dropped his price. Karrasch decided to lower the fee for background checks after attending a Kojo in the Community discussion on guns where Virginia Tech shooting survivor Colin Goddard shared his views on accessibility to firearms.

Now Karrasch, “the gun dude,” will offer checks for $2 –an 87 percent discount. He spoke later with the Kojo Nnamdi Show about his decision.

What are key questions you ask before someone decides to buy a firearm?

I highly encourage anyone who purchases guns to ask these questions of themselves.

  • “Is this the right tool to achieve the goal you’re trying to achieve?”
  • “Is there a better tool?”
  • “Have you been trained to use it appropriately?”

We cannot undervalue the importance of this personal responsibility.

You were sitting in the crowd at Tuesday’s Kojo In Your Community. What struck you about the conversation that inspired you to change your $15-background check price to $2?

During Tuesday’s Kojo in Your Community, I was chatting with [one of] the conversation facilitators, Colin Goddard —a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings— about what measures he felt could help to bridge the gun safety and gun advocate divide.

He immediately listed a number of things, including the need for more background checks.

Then, I asked myself, “What can I do about this?” It wasn’t until the next day, however, that I was able to make a definite decision when I got into my store and saw the $15 flyers for background checks on personal sales.

The price change to $2 took effect that very day.

Was the original price a hindrance to business?

No, I’m not sure the price was prohibitive at all. But if you’re a gun owner who already feels that background checks are unnecessary, any cost imposed on a check doesn’t help change your mind at all.

Is there a longer-term gain to be made by reducing the price?

I like to believe that by doing the right thing, I will get exactly what I desire.

In this instance, offering the community to do a background check for their personal firearm sale at a reasonable cost is the right thing.

And as for business, I won’t experience any loss for dropping the price. If anything, I might experience more foot traffic.

I’ve already got the licenses. I’ve already got the man power. I’ve already got the processes in place. Now, with a reduced price, if we can stop some unauthorized sales to criminals, then, heck, why wouldn’t I want to offer that incentive as a part of business?

What’s left to be gained now is the peace of mind to firearm owners who wish to have a background check when selling or transferring ownership on guns. It will inspire the base of gun advocates and will increase the overall safety of the community.

How do you make sense of the larger divide between gun advocates and those who demand more gun safety?

The culture surrounding firearms in a rural environment differs from that in an urban environment.

Where I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, my grandfather taught me how to use pocket knives.

“Pocket knives could cut you,” he reminded me. “You by start using those because you have to learn how to be careful.”

Then, once I moved on from pocket knives, I learned sheep knives. As I grew older, I learned about long guns like .22 rifles. By this time, I started learning more about about bolt-action rifles and how to clean them. Shotguns came next.

As I got more experience, I took on using guns with more responsibility. Handguns soon followed, but this is also where the challenge began.

While handguns are easier to point and shoot by accident, until you’ve learned how to properly aim a gun at somebody, you’re not allowed to handle a handgun.

At twelve years old, I was hunting with one, just after attending hunter-safety training, that is.

Soon, I was allowed to go shooting on my own.

You see, in the community where I grew up, any adult was able to discipline me if I was acting a fool —with or without a firearm.

Contrast this to urban environments where firearms aren’t as openly discussed and can lead to one being ostracized from certain groups if it is found out that you possess one. A young twelve-year-old boy with interest in firearms has to feed his interest by watching Youtube, video games, TV shows and movies.

I believe there is a way to have both proper gun use and public safety. I recommend creating spaces in urban centers with mentors who can redirect young people along the way of learning how to use a firearm.

Listen to the Kojo In Your Community discussion that encouraged Karrasch to lower his price for background checks, and comment below with your relationship to firearms and your beliefs about appropriate gun safety measures.

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