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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features August 27, 2015

2/18/2014 6:02:00 AM
Column: Prescott ranks high among 'gun-friendly' cities
Johnny Olvera
Johnny Olvera

Jerry Jackson
Courier columnist

I rely on my barber, Johnny Olvera, who holds court in his clip joint down there on North Cortez Street in Prescott, to keep me informed on Things I Might Not Ever Know About Otherwise. And during a session in the chair earlier this month, Johnny - a lifetime resident of Yavapai County whose parents left Mexico for Arizona in 1910 to get away from a revolution that going on at the time - happened to quip, with tongue firmly embedded in cheek - that he enjoys having a license to "scalp white men and get paid for it." This prompted a chuckle, but then he asked if I knew that it was the British back in Colonial times who were the innovators and major practitioners of scalping. I blushed slightly before admitting that I'd never heard of such a thing.

Well, I consulted Wikipedia for confirmation and learned that Johnny's take on the subject bore some credence, but the Brits certainly weren't alone because it was common practice among non-Britishers back in those pre-Revolutionary days up in New England that "all sides scalped victims including non-combatants during the frontier warfare." There were six wars staged over 75 years beginning in the late 1600s and, as an example, Wikipedia noted that "during King George's War, in response to repeated massacres of British families by the French and their native allies, Governor of Massachusetts William Shirley issued a bounty to be paid to British-allied Indians for the scalps of French-allied Indian men, women and children." So brutal retaliation in kind was the order of the day.

But enough of this morbidity and on to my Johnny-on-the-spot, Mr. Olvera, who passed along a Feb. 3, 2014 issue of Shotgun News, the cover of which labels it as "the world's largest gun sales publication". Featured is a lengthy article titled "Gun Town, USA", along with a subhead reading: "Prescott, Ariz., is like no other city when it comes to a gun-friendly environment. Whether it's making guns, selling them or using them, most of the town is involved." The first paragraph in the article, written by Richard MacLean, notes that "scores of cities can rightfully claim to be (now or in the past) prominent centers of America's gun industry. But it takes much more than the presence of a major gun manufacturer for a city to land the title of Gun Town, USA. As this article explores, the clear winner is Prescott, Ariz. "

While noting that the city hosts the Sturm, Ruger & Co. manufacturing facility of firearms and "is also located in one of the most gun-friendly states in the Union," the article points to one set of statistics in particular that stands out. "As illustrated in the accompanying table," according to the writer, "within a five-mile radius of downtown Prescott there are more Federal Firearm License holders per capita than any other city in the USA." Its FFLs per 10,000 residents registers at 17.5, whereas large cities carry fractional equivalents such as Los Angeles (.21), Washington, D.C. (.15), Boston (.12) and New York City (.042). So "according to antigun logic," the writer notes, "the crime rate must be out of control in Prescott." But "in fact, the crime rate is a fraction of the rate in these gun-restrictive areas."

Among the 15 photos accompanying the article are a couple of shots inside the Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row; two others depicting gunsmithing activity by students at Yavapai College - a course that's been offered since the early 1980s - a photo of early western movie star Tom Mix, who owned Prescott's Bar Circle A Ranch and in 1913 won first prize in our Frontier Days Rodeo steer riding and bulldogging competition, and a nice color shot of our resident bon vivant barber standing beside a customer. The caption reads: "The cowboy culture and guns are evident everywhere, including John Olvera's barbershop on Cortez Street where there's an ample supply of gun magazines." (I THINK the reference is to magazines that you can read as opposed to those that hold cartridges to be fed into gun chambers, but I could be wrong because I tend to be wrong a lot.)

No doubt about it, Johnny is quite a tongue-in-cheeker and, when I hit him up to shoot a head shot to accompany the column, I asked him to smile. He confessed to being better at smirking than smiling, though, so I ended up having to snap two smirk shots before landing a smiling one. Perseverance paid off!

Contact the columnist at

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, April 21, 2014
Article comment by: Annie Get Your Gun

Gun nuts and drug addicts...what a combo. Any stats on how many drug addicts in a 5 mile radius?

Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Article comment by: Entertainment Bizarre O

Nothing like morbid human scalping history followed by all the reasons this town remains a prime candidate for tragedy. All delivered with a smile.

Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

Asking someone for a "Head shot" in conjunction with this subject matter may have been ill-advised.

But all's well that ends well...

Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Article comment by: Simcha M.

I too, read that article with pride in my new town, even though technically I live in Prescott Valley.

I was shocked, however to discover that the author (a resident of Prescott as it turns out) left out one of the biggest and most famous of the shotgun modification shops, Vang Comp of Chino Valley. If a police department in this country owns a shotgun (and all do) chances are good that it has been uniquely compensated or otherwise enhanced by Hans Vang and his crack gunsmiths.

I contacted Shotgun News who forwarded my email to the author but nothing satisfactory came of it. This is a major oversight, much like doing an article on Arizona's natural wonders but failing to mention Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

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