Gift of guns draws worldwide attention to Hortonville
Workplace aims to protect employees’ families this Christmas
By Scott Bellile
Hortonville company BenShot – a manufacturer of handcrafted drinking glasses with a bullet embedded in the side – is forthcoming in its support for the Second Amendment.
That is why on Nov. 13, the father-and-son glassmaking company blasted out a press release to news media announcing its 16 full-time employees and several part-timers are getting a free gun for Christmas.
Within a day, news outlets worldwide – from Buzzfeed and Breitbart in the U.S., to London’s Daily Mail and Russia’s RT internationally – reported on the 3-year-old Hortonville business’s controversial act.
“We are a small, close-knit team at BenShot,” son Ben Wolfgram said in the press release. “I want to make sure all of employees are safe and happy – a handgun was the perfect gift.”
Company spokesperson Chelsea Priest said BenShot wants to protect employees’ families at home while demonstrating it strongly backs the Second Amendment. BenShot’s decision is not in response to the country’s mass shooting epidemic.
“They wanted to accomplish making us and our families feel safe by providing us with a gun,” Priest said.
The bosses, Bruce and Ben Wolfgram, actually gave everybody a gift card – collectively, $8,000 worth – to go purchase their own handgun instead of distributing the firearms directly. That way every recipient received a background check.
“We had two of our employees that initially declined a gift, but now they’re considering accepting it after we took a safety course with MK Protection Strategies,” Priest said. “And all our employees had to take that safety course, and we got certificates of completion before we got the money to get our handgun.”
Malissa Misch, founder and safety instructor at MK Protection Strategies, said the Menomonee Falls company regularly facilitates self-defense and violence prevention workshops in corporate settings. BenShot was the first company to ask for firearms safety training at a business.
“It’s even more uncommon that a business owner would equip his employees (as a Christmas gift) with a firearm to protect and defend themselves and their families,” Misch wrote in an email. “When I heard [a]bout BenShot’s idea of gifting firearms to their staff for Christmas this year, I thought what an incredible owner! Now all of his employees, especially the women, have a way to defend themselves and their children if needed. That is important!”
Several employees held a gun for their first time during training.
“I think it was quite responsible for the owner of BenShot to ensure proper safety training for all his employees,” Misch said. “The owner was able to see the great respect all of his employees have for firearms. He also saw that they all could demonstrate the rigid safety requirements and safe handling comprehension activities I expected from them in the course.”
Employees can possess their guns at work as long as they have concealed carry permits, Priest said.
Guns will be barred from certain areas of the building such as near kilns.
The world weighs in
The barrage of publicity has kept Priest, the company’s media relations manager, very busy.
“We knew it’d cause traction just because of the subject, but the national exposure has definitely been something very interesting to experience,” Priest said.
“We have received negative criticism,” Priest acknowledged, “but we are just so thankful and really happy for the outpour of support that we got from our personal customers as well as people who didn’t know what BenShot was. And now they’re in complete support of our company and what we stand for, and they’re ordering our products, which is awesome.”
According to the website Social Blade, BenShot gained more than 550 followers during the first three days of the news story on its most active social media platform, Instagram.
But one only needs to check the online comments section of any major news outlet’s reporting on BenShot to see that readers are both inspired and disgusted by the company’s gesture.
One critic was Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a nationwide grassroots anti-gun violence movement.
She quoted an Appleton Post-Crescent article that stated Ben Wolfgram is not worried about workplace violence “because his business has a small staff and all of the employees know each other well.”
“Glad he knows that no one in any of these families have experienced domestic violence, suicidal ideation, or emotional instability,” Watts tweeted sarcastically.
The Press Star contacted the Wisconsin chapter of Moms Demand Action for comment. The organization declined.
Nancy Jones, a leader of Fox Cities Gun Violence Prevention Team, gave BenShot credit for ensuring employees received background checks and safety training.
“My concern is the idea that guns will make people safer,” Jones said.
Jones cited statistics that say people are two to 10 times likelier to die by homicide or suicide if they have guns in the home.
She also said guns are 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting, an assault, homicide or suicide than they are in self-defense.
“Guns in a home make it a lot more likely that people in that home are going to get hurt,” Jones said.