CRESTVIEW — All gun owners are safe with their weapon of choice as long as they receive proper training, according to Ward Lewis, co-owner of Precision Tactical Arms in Crestview.
“I don’t think you should discern whether you are a man or woman, whether someone is safe with a gun or not, it’s about the training,” he said. “If someone knows how to use it, that makes it safer.”
But that safety measure only applies to gun owners. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent statistics cite that a total of 2,559 gun-related deaths were reported in Florida in 2015, accounting for a death rate of 12 percent, which is slightly higher than the nation’s overall rate of 11.1 percent.
However, in Crestview, where gun stores and pawn shops line the streets, gun-related homicides are low. Brian Hughes, the public information officer of the Crestview Police Department, said that so far in 2017 there have been no gun-related deaths in the city. The last gun-related deaths in Crestview, he said, were at the hands of 22-year-old Jacob Langston, who killed his mother, stepfather and the boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend at the beginning of January 2016.
But to Ward — who added his company to the NRA-ILA activist list — a .45 is as American as apple pie.
“The .45 is all-American. It’s Americana,” he said from behind a case of pistols and revolvers in his store. The gun of choice for his wife, he said, is a .380 Smith and Wesson bodyguard laser gun priced at $399.
“My wife has one of these,” he said while pointing its laser onto a rack of shotguns. “And we have a plate glass door, so if I’m not home and a man shows up at the door and she points that laser, she doesn’t even have to shoot and he’ll be gone [he will leave the house]."
“A .22 is not what I would carry,” Ward said as he aligned a set of bullets ranked by diameter, with a .22’s bullet markedly smaller than the rest. “But it’s less expensive to shoot with a .22 and you could use less rounds.”
He added that a .22’s bullets are more likely to bounce around inside the human body once hit, but work well for squirrel hunting.
Before opening Precision Tactical Arms with his partner Jay Carter, Ward worked in a hangar after earning maintenance and flight certificates, but his passion for guns eventually overcame his interest in aviation.
“The business was born out of necessity to feed our habit,” he said jokingly. “It was a hobby at first and a way for me to buy guns and ammunition.”
Ward said he uses discretion while selling guns and that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives criteria weed out potential criminals or sociopaths who may venture into his store.
“We sell quite a bit to the local community," he said. "Early on in the business, I thought you could tell who you were selling to and what kind of shooter they are and you don’t really judge a book by its cover.”
“You take a good look at them and you say, ‘Hey, how are [you] doing,’” he said about feeling out his potential customers. “You talk through what’s going on; we don’t do high-pressure sales in this store.
"People come in and perhaps don’t pass the background check, and if there is a problem we tell them to leave."
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated Precision Tactical Arms' co-owner's name.