The place is buzzing almost from the minute Becky Bieker and an employee switch on the “Open” sign at the new She’s a Pistol store in Shawnee. One man wants to check on an order, another is interested in holsters. The phone rings incessantly while the employee tends to another man about a gun purchase.
It’s been a good couple of months for the new location of the gun store, Bieker said. Business has been steady and classes are filling up.
The new She’s a Pistol, 6487 Quivira Road, is a fresh start for Bieker. About a year ago, her husband, Jon, was killed during a failed robbery and shootout at the couple’s first store in Shawnee’s old downtown area.
That store was reopened a couple of months after the shootout. But Bieker eventually decided she needed a different location, not only because of the memory but also because the business was beginning to outgrow its space. The new location has a better layout and indoor access to classroom space, she said.
Bieker has received a lot of support since the shootings. “The community has been amazing. That was one of the reasons why when we moved we were only looking at Shawnee locations. Because this is our home and always will be. We’ll always have a shop in Shawnee,” she said.
Bieker has been selling firearms since shortly after she and Jon incorporated their business in 2009. At first, they sold online and at gun shows. They opened the brick-and-mortar store in 2012.
She’s a Pistol made the news when it opened because it was one of the few stores of its type trying to attract female customers. The store featured clothing, self-defense items and handbags designed for concealed carry. The Biekers also offered classes in self-defense, as well as those required by Kansas’ concealed carry law.
“We’re trying to keep some of that,” at the new location, Bieker said. But the main focus is on self defense and personal protection, she said. There are still some purses on display, but no clothes, although Bieker said she doesn’t rule out bringing them back.
The classes remain a big part of the business, she said. A dry-erase board behind the counter is filled with a list of classes and Bieker plans to add more in a month or two. The courses range from beginner gun ownership to strategic classes with some role play on defending a home or a loved one.
Despite the fact that Kansans no longer have to take a course to carry a concealed weapon, the classes remain popular, she said. Part of that is because people know they still need that class for concealed carry in Missouri, she said. Some people take other gun safety instruction even though they are not required to, she said.
Bieker has remained purposeful in returning her business and personal life to normal. “To a degree, you kind of do what you have to do,” she said. “I never saw an option not to come back (to work). That was the path for me all the time, from day one.”
Though they never imagined, when they first opened, the violence that would one day visit their store, she said she and Jon were always aware of the possibility.
“Unfortunately the way society is, any of us at any time could have that happen. It just happened that it was us that time,” she said. “We trained for it, we were aware of the risk. Sometimes things just don’t work the way they should.”
The four men arrested in connection with the robbery and murder are still making their way through the court system. Bieker said she keeps track of all the hearings and tries to be rational and realistic about them.
“Other than seeing they are held responsible for the crimes they committed and are not allowed out of prison again, they really do not factor into my daily life in any way,” she said.
“I won’t give them that power.”
Roxie Hammill: firstname.lastname@example.org