Company opens its arms to NRA buff
By GREG MILLER of the Tribune’s staff
A room decorated with elephant tusks, a lion-skin rug and a mounted gazelle head might intimidate some people, but not Ted Nugent.
"All right!" the 57-year-old rocker said as he entered the library at MidwayUSA to handshakes and smiles. "A room full of dead stuff. I feel better already."
The ardent shooting enthusiast was in town for a show at The Blue Note last night. Yesterday afternoon, he stopped by MidwayUSA’s 100,000-square foot distribution center at 5875 Van Horn Tavern Road, home to more than 75,000 shooting, reloading, gunsmithing, hunting and outdoor products.
Sara Potterfield-Zara, a project specialist at the company, said Nugent and MidwayUSA were a perfect fit.
"He is a gun guy," she said. "He’s a big gun guy."
Nugent rose to fame playing guitar with the Amboy Dukes in the late ’60s and released his solo megahit "Cat Scratch Fever" in 1977. He has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and is on a 51-show tour this summer.
His stop at MidwayUSA came when Nugent called the company himself to set up a meeting. MidwayUSA is a large contributor to the National Rifle Association and has helped customers donate more than $3.5 million to the organization. Nugent is a NRA fanatic who proclaimed yesterday: "You’re not allowed to work with me or hang with me if you’re not a member of the NRA."
Of course, Nugent said, there were other reasons for the visit.
"I want to see if the rumors they have more shooting stuff than I do is true," the Motor City Madman said. "I thought they might deserve" a visit from "me, and we should probably get together and fondle hardware or something."
With 105 copies of his books "Kill it and Grill it" and "God, Guns, & Rock ’n’ roll" laid before him, Nugent, clad in a blue work shirt and camouflage cowboy hat, went to work signing while railing on anything that popped up in his sights.
"I played country once," Nugent said. "Then I got my hand out of the cast, and it all came back."
Conceal and carry laws?
"You don’t need a license to do any of the other freedoms," he said. "The fact that you need a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun is to me anti-American and very French-like."
Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm, who was concerned about the conceal and carry law that passed in October 2003, said this morning he didn’t see eye-to-eye with Nugent.
"Obviously, in my profession I feel more comfortable with the fact that there are some restrictions on who can and cannot carry a concealed weapon," Boehm said. "I guess I don’t think having some restrictions on who can and cannot carry a concealed weapon is in opposition to Amendment 2."
As Nugent verbally eviscerated standpoints differing from his own, about 25 employees filled the room and cheered on their kindred spirit. The rocker used words such as "adorable" and "beautiful" to describe the kills on his hunts, and Stacey Uptegrove, a manager who works in the "100 percent NRA" sales and marketing department, clapped and laughed along with her co-workers.
She said MidwayUSA isn’t the typical office setting. "My shotgun’s been sitting over there" on a cabinet "for a week now, and nobody’s said anything," Uptegrove said. "It’s normal."
After signing the books, Nugent toured the facility, took pictures and talked hunting with anyone who would listen. But where was the guitar? Would Nugent rather rock or admire a gun stock? "I made that decision, and I’m doing both, thank you," he said.