Joel Fulton / by Michael Falco

Who is Joel Fulton? 

Joel Fulton grew up in Homer, Michigan, a small rural town. He was raised in the church parsonage as his father was a Baptist preacher. He owns Freedom Firearms, an indoor gun range and shop in Battle Creek. He is an active supporter of Second Amendment rights and considers himself politically libertarian although is a member of the Executive Committee of the Calhoun County Republican Party. He especially believes in reaching across the aisle and having conversations with those who hold different political beliefs than his own. He was married to a woman with biracial children.   

Excerpt from interview with Joel Fulton by Whitney Dow, 2017

Fulton: [17:04:09] I had people all year last year telling me to vote my wallet, vote my wallet, vote my wallet. And as a gun dealer, I said, “Okay, Hillary it is!” [laughs] Because I'll be honest with you. Look, the Clinton years were fantastic in the gun industry, and Obama blew that out of the water. This is a fear-driven business that I’m in. And it’s terribly difficult to manage. It has peaks and valleys. It’s not like a normal business cycle. For me, if I wanted to make a lot of money last year, you bet your bottom dollar it was Hillary all the way. Now, I had a friendly wager from a friend of mine who took the Vegas odds in April, and he said that he would take Hillary against the field and it was ten to eleven odds. So I said, “If you win, I owe you a thousand dollars; if I win, you owe me eleven hundred.” I kept joking with him all the way up to the election. Like four or five weeks before, I said, “Hey, I'll let you buy out your bet for 750. I'll let you buy out your bet for 850.” The next week was 950. Last week, just days before the election, I said, “Hey, I'll let you buy out your bet for $1,050.” And I never in a million years believed Trump would win. I was joking, and he’s like, “You’re out of your mind. You’re crazy.” And then after the election, I made my [laughs] eleven hundred dollars. I’m like, “Awesome!” Of course, my business tanked.

The day before the election, I did about sixteen thousand dollars in sales. If I had stayed open another three hours from eight o’clock until about eleven o’clock, and told everybody, “Hey, it’s the pre-election sale. Come get your whatever” and gone out on social media, I probably could've made another ten grand that night. But I’m thinking, “Hey, it’s going to be a long day tomorrow. Hillary’s going to win. I’m going to have to try and secure a bunch of inventory. People are going to panic buy. It’s going to get crazy again. I’m going to be here all day tomorrow. I need to close the shop. I had to to scoot people out. And I need to get home, and go to bed, and kind of keep my eye on the election until about eleven, twelve o’clock, and then get some sleep and be ready to get in here tomorrow morning about six, seven o’clock, so I can get ready for the day. And of course, about eleven o’clock, I’m watching. I’m like, “Holy cow! He’s still ahead.” And by 11:40, when they called North Carolina, I’m like, “I'll be doggone. This guy is actually going to pull this off. I can’t believe he’s going to actually win,” because nobody believed, even that morning, that he was going to win. He did win. And the next day, I did twenty-five hundred dollars in sales. It was dead. It was ghost town. You could've shot a cannon through that place and never hit a soul. So, yeah.

Fulton: [17:32:04] [Sighs] Yeah, let me say this about that. When I hear the term whiteness, I hear it from social justice warriors that use it in a derogatory manner. I don’t think you’re going to achieve change that way. You say, “whiteness,” and suddenly you’re attacking the color of my skin. That’d be as ignorant as me going after another group based on the color of their skin. You want to say that there’s a difference between living the American experience in white skin and living it in a minority skin, then go after that. But you start calling it whiteness, you start calling it something that needs to be stamped out or crushed, and you’re going to get resistance. What I mean by that is this. And my father used to use the example all the time in a marriage counseling setting as a pastor. He’d take a string, and he’d take it from one end, and he’d push the string. And it’d bunch all up, go in all different directions. He’d take the string, he’d take it on one end, and start to pull it and lead it. And it followed in a straight line.

He said, “That’s the difference between leadership and getting somebody to buy in to how you believe the idealism and how things should be done as opposed to pushing people towards things.” If you push people, you’ll get resistance. They’ll push back every time. What you have to do is you have to educate people. It’s like a sales pitch, right?

Somebody comes into my gun shop. They might already have twenty or thirty guns. They might have two or three guns. I don't know how many guns they’ve got, but they’re buying another one for goodness sake. And I’ve got to convince them that what they’ve got really isn’t good enough yet, and what I’ve got’s better. And if they buy it, they’ll be the coolest kid on the block. My dad actually taught me that sales technique when I was a very small child sitting in church. He talked about the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. I said, “Well, dad, that’s a sales tactic,” [laughs], “I’ve got to get you touching it. I’ve got to get you to believe it’s the best thing ever.” And if you’re going to sell any idea, you first have to convince people that their current ideals are not good enough. This is not what we should be as human beings. This is not what we should be as our ideal selves. I’ve got to convince you that this idea over here and how I interact is better. And that we’ll be a greater country for it if we do.