Kenyon Gleason

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President's Message: A Small Part of Something Much Bigger

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 7/15/22 9:39 AM

I am, admittedly, a bit of a dreamer. Sometimes I come up with some pretty big ideas. In fact, it’s how I won my wife over when we were dating. I told her I had good ideas and that someday, one of my good ideas was going to pay off. Truth be told, probably 999 times out of 1,000, the ideas vanish into the ether. But on occasion, I strike gold and turn an idea into something meaningful.

It all started as a young kid on a farm in the middle-of-nowhere North Dakota. One of the most amazing benefits about growing up there (and remains so today) is the lack of light pollution. The night sky was big, bold and gorgeous. It had a way of making you feel small and insignificant with its vastness. Undeterred, I would lie down in the yard and dream about taking trips to the outer reaches of the universe. Little did I know just how big the universe was at the time.

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President's Message: Weathering the Storm

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 6/16/22 9:09 AM

One of the greatest things about going home is all the things you remember about your past. It’s like the fog clearing on a bright and sunny morning.

As I write this column, I’m “home” spending time at the farm I grew up on in North Dakota. In the middle of our time here, we got a soaker of a rainstorm. Over three inches of rain came in just a few hours. Pretty much anywhere in the country, when you get that much water, that fast, it usually leads to some pretty good flooding. When you consider the fact that the waters were just receding from the last heavy downpour, it made the flooding seem even more dramatic.

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President's Message: Reflections on Today, Tomorrow, and Yesterday

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 5/17/22 9:30 AM

Hatred is a cancer.

It should find no home… anywhere.

We obviously don’t know all the details yet surrounding the horrific shooting in Buffalo over the weekend. Based on what I’ve read and seen, it was likely a racially motivated rampage. What prompts someone to do such things? Were there signs the young man was not in a healthy state of mind? Could this have been prevented?

Like many of you I’m sure, I’m struggling to comprehend this evil. There are no easy answers, and it seems only more tough questions. It’s another senseless tragedy to go along with more extreme violence in Chicago, St. Louis and elsewhere.

We need very much to start understanding the root causes here and working on ways to solve these problems. And that doesn’t mean grandstanding politicians should enact more rules, call for more bans on inanimate objects, or create more bumper sticker slogans. What I mean is, we all need to come together to try and understand the “why” these things happen and stop the fixation with the “how.”

I can’t say it any more plainly; there is no place for such hate in our country. It should be rooted out from wherever it tries to rest. It should be given no safe harbor. Hate is a cancer, and we will need some strong medicine to cure it.

NASGW Closes in on 70 Year Anniversary

For those of you who’ve been keeping track, NASGW is getting close to celebrating 70 years of existence as an organization. We were founded in 1953 and incorporated as an entity in 1954. As we draw closer to 2023, and the celebration of this milestone, the organization continues to develop and adapt to an always changing industry landscape.

NASGW’s Chairman, Chris Means, reflected in his column earlier this month on some of the many things we have been working on as an organization. As you are all aware, our SCOPE™ data program continues to grow into an indispensable tool for businesses in our industry. We are making strides daily and soon will be sharing some exciting new opportunities for all our members to benefit from these incredible tools. We built SCOPE™ for you, our members, and we want you all to be able to take advantage of the great benefits.

As an integral part of the shooting sports industry sales channel, the wholesale distributors also understand that in order to keep doing business for the long term, we’ve got to make sure we protect our channel and our heritage.

I try to live by the mantra that, “You can’t know where you’re going, unless you know where you’ve been.” I find that to be true in my personal life and in business. If you don’t understand your past, you likely won’t do a very good job planning your future. Doing the same things, but expecting different results, is a recipe for disaster.

Luckily, our organization is led by a great board of directors and made up of about 500 companies all hoping for a brighter future for this industry. At NASGW, we’ve been talking for years about doing big things for this industry. We’ve accomplished some big things already, especially when you consider the herculean task of building a data platform that truly helps us understand product sales and inventories.

But we’re not stopping with just SCOPE™. With constant political challenges and regulatory challenges being thrown in front of us, it will be incumbent on all of us in this industry to find critical solutions to banking, insurance, payment processing and other roadblocks to our legal business operations.
We are working on many of those things now both internally and with our other partners across the industry. Together, we have the ability to preserve and protect our industry for the future and we won’t stop until we’ve accomplished that mission.

Remember the Real Reason

I want to take a moment to reflect on the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. As we all know, it makes for a great start to the summer season. Kids are getting out of school, vacations are being planned, backyard barbecues and pool parties will be in full swing soon. All these fun things are part of what it means to be an American and to live in the best country on the planet.

But let’s not forget the real reason for Memorial Day. Please make sure to take some time to pause and reflect on why we have the freedom to enjoy all that fun. It’s because hundreds of thousands of men and women loved this country so much, wanted so much to protect it for their friends and families, that they gave the ultimate sacrifice, they died so we could have those freedoms.

It's a great time to kick off the summer. But it should also be a solemn time of reflection and remembrance. My thoughts and prayers are with every individual, and their families, who’ve given all they could give, so I could have the blessings that I do.

Freedom isn’t free and I won’t ever forget it.


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President's Message: Getting Used to Things... or Not

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 4/20/22 1:39 PM

They have a saying in Kansas that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes and it’ll change. Honestly, after living here for a year now, I’ve discovered that’s not too far from reality. We just recently had an 80+ degree day only to be followed the next day with rain, slushy snow and biting winds. Kind of makes it hard to plan your wardrobe.

Situated smack-dab in the middle of the U.S., it seems we’re destined for a bit of everything, and sometimes on the same day. If you happen to comment or critique the weather to a long-term resident, you can expect they’ll finish the conversation with a hearty, “Welcome to Kansas!” They want you to understand that if you’re going to live here, you need to get used to it. So, I guess I will.

One thing I probably will never get used to though is the indifference and reckless decisions coming from the epicenter of power in Washington, D.C. We just saw the President announce new executive actions on receivers and frames and new rules on dealing with gun parts that allow you to build a homemade gun, which of course is perfectly legal.

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President's Message: Business Is Local

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 3/15/22 10:21 AM

I’ve been reflecting the past couple years on the growing availability of products in our industry, available for sale online. With the COVID pandemic, online giants like Amazon, Walmart and others reaped a windfall of profits because many were stuck at home, afraid to go out for fear of spreading the virus or just not wanting to deal with the mask mandates.

Decades ago, the late Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives, became rather well known for saying, "All politics is local." What he meant by that is that a politician’s success is overwhelmingly impacted by his ability to understand, work on and lobby for the issues his constituents most care about. Usually, those were not “big ideas” but simple, run-of-the-mill and everyday concerns impacting common citizens. He suggested that if you mastered the ability to represent those “local concerns” at a national level, then you’d be a success. I believe he was right.

I’m going to suggest today that like politics, all business is local. And we do ourselves and our neighbors a great disservice if we forget that. Your local retailer, like your local politician to a certain extent, can be your advocate on getting the things you need, sharing tips and tricks, working hard to service your firearms, maybe offering a place to shoot and test, and providing great advice about ammunition, optics and other accessories that match your firearm. Plus, when you buy something locally, and something is wrong or you need to return it, local retailers are there to help. When you buy from big online suppliers, that’s not always the case.

I don’t think I’m spreading any big secret here, but large online vendors are interested mostly in profits. Your local retailer is of course interested in profits too, but they also have a vested interest in you as their customer, because they see you face to face. You’re not some faceless or anonymous buyer out in the hinterlands. You’re their neighbor and in many cases their friend. This is true all the way through the distribution channel, from consumer to retailer to wholesaler and all the way to the supplier. These companies and suppliers have built relationships spanning decades in many cases. Who at the big online retailer cares about you like your local retailer will? I kind of think that might be a little different story.

The last couple years have been especially profitable for major, online companies. However, our main street businesses were not as fortunate. And that’s an absolute shame. It’s shameful particularly because those giant online behemoths are not supporting the local baseball and soccer teams or donating money to keep the fields and facilities looking good. They certainly aren’t paying taxes or employees locally. Those companies are probably not assisting the local American Legion with its programs or the local gun range with new targets or upgraded benchrests.

All those community projects and programs happen because local businesses and local donors dig in and dig deep to donate and volunteer their time to make sure those charitable efforts are a success. When you buy online, you may have saved a few dollars, true… but the bulk of that purchase went to line the pockets of big companies who oftentimes don’t represent you or your values in any way. And those dollars did not go into the pockets of your community members who could have put them to very good use.

When I go shopping, I like to see the items, read the boxes, check out the demo models and get my eyes and hands on the item if I can. It helps me understand the quality, the fit, finish, etc. I either walk away empty-handed because the item didn’t pass my standards test, or I walk away with the product in hand. Seems I almost always walk away with a few things I didn’t expect to pick up when I walked through the door. (My wife does NOT need to know this so ssshhh!)

Admittedly, it’s been a bit hard to walk away with products from your local retailer over the past couple years because demand has been ridiculous, and supply has been thin. But now, as things return from the stratosphere, store inventories are starting to replenish. I was very pleasantly surprised to find a whole wall of ammunition in a variety of calibers relevant to me, along with a diverse selection of guns, when I made a visit to a local sporting goods store this past weekend.

Of course, there are sometimes good reasons to buy things online, particularly if they aren’t available in your local area. And darn if it isn’t convenient.

I guess when I boil it all down, what I’m asking is that folks in our industry please just consider as much as possible the broader implications of ignoring our small family owned and main street gun shops, along with local businesses outside of our industry. When we choose to buy things online, which are available close to home, we are putting at risk a lot more than we might realize. If a local gun shop is relegated to just the “gun transfer hub” because folks are buying all their ancillary products online, what incentive does that business have to remain open at all? I’d prefer not to have them even consider closing the doors. Government regulation makes staying in business hard enough. We don’t need to make it harder for them buy doing all our shopping online.

So, I’d just like to encourage you to do as much of your business as local as possible. It’ll be good for your community, and it will definitely be good for the long-term viability of our industry and the retail community who supports us.

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President's Message: The Proof is in the Pudding

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 2/15/22 10:38 AM

There have been plenty of times when I’ve looked at people and wondered, “What in the world are they thinking?” But have you ever stared back at your own face in the mirror and wondered that about yourself?

You might say I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection over the past five or six months. For those who read this column regularly, you’ll remember that my wife and I sent our youngest son off to college last fall. That made us empty nesters for the first time in over 25 years.

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President's Message: Who Are You?

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 1/14/22 1:38 PM

During my professional career, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to be involved in many strategic reviews, branding campaigns, and analyzing the overall mission and vision of a variety of employers.

Sometimes these strategic reviews consist of a small “update” to an existing plan. And in some cases, the process is much more comprehensive, in-depth, and ends up creating a complete overhaul.

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President's Message: Be Defiantly Joyful

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 12/16/21 9:14 AM

When you wake up each day, are you happy about it? Do you give thanks that you’ve been given another day to make a difference, to make an impact, to live your best life and to make the lives around you better?

Or do you grumble through the morning, wish away the afternoon and sulk in your sorrows when the sun dips down?

For the past 24 months, we’ve all been dealing with some rather unimaginable challenges in our personal and professional lives. We’ve all been asked to do things in ways inextricably linked to our future and the ways we approach work and life. To get through it without feeling a little stress and anxiety would be unusual.

We can lead by example with the way we handle the world around us and the way we respond to all the challenges and struggles being set in front of us. We can become bitter, angry, and combative – or we can choose to be defiantly joyful.

I heard that phrase just this past weekend – be defiantly joyful – and it struck me like a hammer to the head. I’d never heard it before. I mean, it’s not like those two words make a lot of sense together. You don’t think of someone being defiant as a joyful thing. In fact, quite the opposite. But think about those two things together… I believe there’s some real magic in that phrase and it applies to how we interact with our family, friends, and our customers.

When someone is screaming at you over the retail counter, you can choose to let it bother you, or you can respond with kindness and understanding. When your sales deal falls through, you can let the anxiety overtake you, or you can choose to just move forward on another sale. When your business faces logistical, supply, staffing or other conundrums, you can let the strain invade your life, or you can tackle the issues one by one and through efficiencies and creative thinking, find new and better ways to overcome.

In short, you can allow the negative to sink in and take hold. Or, you can be defiantly joyful, knowing that you have the power to choose, and you have the strength and ability to move beyond. And that in the end, this too shall pass.

You’ve all heard the saying, “That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Well, I believe being defiantly joyful can make you infinitely stronger as well. So, in this season of hope, love, and peace, please use it as a time to spread joy. And when something is working hard to get you down, stare it in the face with your defiant joy.

I want to also take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped the NASGW find success this year. From our amazing board of directors, our staff, but most importantly, the members who support us through thick and thin, we couldn’t do this without you. We had a great year, and I can’t explain just how amazing it was to be back together with you all – in person – during our Expo in October. Thank you for bringing back the normal. Thank you for joining us in being defiantly joyful in the midst of everything happening in the world today.

On that note, I don’t want to overlook the challenge that this time of year might bring to some who are close to us. While many are celebrating and enjoying the spirit of the season, others are fighting a battle inside themselves. Mercifully, many find help and can work their way back. Sometimes though, the pain is too deep, the struggles so crushing people turn to drugs, alcohol or in severe cases, even suicide. In many cases, suicide using a firearm.

Outside of my work as the leader of NASGW, I serve as a board member for another national group, Walk the Talk America (WTTA). WTTA was created in 2018 as a charitable organization designed to spread the word about mental health issues and to reduce firearms suicides or other negative incidents where firearms are involved. I was at the beginning and still am, proud to be involved in such an important mission.

Today, WTTA continues to grow and expand its reach into the firearms industry and the world of mental health providers, and where possible, bring these two communities together to do good. Through educational seminars, public speaking opportunities, free mental health screenings, training for mental health professionals and even by providing gun box informational flyers available to any gun manufacturer in the U.S., WTTA is making a difference. If you’re not familiar with the organization, you can get more details at

I’m not asking you necessarily to financially support the organization, though I know that would certainly be welcome, I’m simply asking you to help spread the word about mental health awareness or even to offer a shoulder to someone who needs it or be there for a friend or family member in need. Sometimes, all it takes to save a life is to just listen. Working together, inside our community and partnering with others, especially at this time of year, we can all play a small part in making a difference and maybe prevent a firearm suicide or get someone the help they desperately need.

Whether you’re spreading joy and cheer or lending a hand to someone who might be facing a difficult time, defy the culture, defy the odds, and do what you know to be right.

I want to wish you, your family, and your friends a blessed and merry Christmas and a most wonderful and happy New Year!

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President's Message: A Lot to be Thankful For

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 11/17/21 9:10 AM
Each year around this time I have an opportunity to go home. Not an opportunity to get back from a work trip to the house that I live in now, though that is true too especially once the Expo ends. But the home I’m speaking about is the one I grew up in.
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President's Message: We've Arrived at the Finish Line

Posted by Kenyon Gleason on 10/18/21 2:13 PM

I was once an avid runner. Not so much anymore. After multiple knee surgeries on both knees and arthritis to go with it, I had to hang up the running shoes many years ago.

But the other day, when asked what it feels like to know that we’re going to host the 2021 NASGW Expo, I surprised myself a bit by saying it reminded me of running a grueling race. Now that I’ve thought about it a bit more, I want to amend that reply. Because I don’t think it’s been like just a plain 3, 5, or 10K race. Rather, I think it’s more like one of those crazy 100-mile “ultra race” events where people run for 24-36 hours straight on some of the harshest terrain you can imagine.

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