COLUMBIA, S.C. — You can hear the pop of bullets from the parking lot.
It’s even louder standing inside the storefront of Shooter’s Choice, a gun shop and firing range here in Columbia. On Saturday, a Google Maps search from the center of the University of South Carolina campus quickly pulled up several such stores within 10 minutes by car.
Inside is an array of firearms, lined up neatly behind counters and under glass cases like jewelry. There are long guns, small guns, pink camo guns. Stuward, a salesman at the store who declined to give his last name, formed a grandfatherly presence behind the register on Saturday with deeply creased clay-like skin and silver wire-framed glasses.
Stuward has owned a gun since he was a child and doesn’t want his ownership rights taken away, but agrees with some reform measures.
“I think we’ve got to make our youth more aware of guns in the school system,” he says, suggesting safety courses similar to driver’s education. “My dad told me when I was a boy, if you go to somebody’s house and the kids there are playing with a gun, don’t say anything, don’t do anything, just leave. Get out of there.”
Stuward says he’s experienced poaching on his property in Fairfield County by hunters using silencers on their guns. “We walk our dog on our property,” he said. He also thinks “military guns shouldn’t be in the hands of people… They’re not hunting guns. And I’d like to feel I’m still a true sportsman when it comes to hunting. And they want silencers on their guns.”
But in Saturday's South Carolina primary election, Stuward voted for 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump, a Northerner whose positions on guns he doesn’t know much about besides the basic assumption that, as a Republican, he is in favor of guns. He is bashful when admitting his allegiance to Trump, but thinks we need a businessman in the White House.
“You want to know my real, deep-hearted feelings?” he asks. “I don’t feel [guns] are as important an issue [in this election] as people feel it is. I think right now the debt of our country and the shape of our infrastructure are the important thing.”