Donald Trump could not have picked a more perfect gun shop to make a campaign stop.
The Palmetto State Armory retail outlet in Summerville, South Carolina, did not only have a Glock semi-automatic pistol inscribed with his name and likeness. The company itself has a history of capitalizing on the crazy core of Trumpism: insurrection and racial conflict and disrespect for democracy.
Palmetto State Armory manufactured the assault rifle that a racist gunman decorated with two white swastikas before he used it to murder three Black people at a Dollar General Store in Jacksonville, Florida, late last month. But that could have just as easily been Smith & Wesson or Bushmaster or Daniel Defense.
Only Palmetto State Armory has painted a whole line of assault weapons in the style of an Hawaiian shirt, the unofficial uniform of the Boogaloo Boys, a militant movement that calls for the violent overthrow of the federal government accompanied by a racial civil war.
The company marketed these weapons as “the best American-made AK-47s” with a “Big Igloo Aloha finish.” In the Boogaloo movement’s parlance, the Big Igloo and the Big Luau are slang for the second civil war. Boogaloo Boys took part in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol and they also figured in a 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
In June of 2020, another Boogaloo Boy fatally shot two sheriff's deputies in Santa Cruz. The killer wrote ”boog”’ in blood on the hood of a car. That same month, a trio of alleged Boogaloo Boys were arrested with assault rifles and explosives in Las Vegas allegedly headed for a George Floyd protest.
Also that month, another alleged Boogaloo Boy murdered a federal security officer and got into a shootout with police in Oakland, California. He was wearing a patch that combined an American flag and an igloo on an Hawaiian background. He is now serving a 41-year prison term.
For a time, Palmetto the company also offered assault rifle “lower receivers”— the core working assembly—stenciled with Trumpian slogans such as “Build the Wall,” and “Let’s Go Brandon.” One bore the words that Rep. Joe Wilson shouted from the House floor during President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address: “You lie!”
“Only 999 of these will be produced, get yours before they are gone!” the company said when announcing this new customized line “to honor our esteemed congressman Joe Wilson.”
In a Trumpian oversight, Palmetto State Armory failed to mention that Wilson’s son, Julian Wilson, is one of three partners in JJE Capital Holdings, the private equity firm that owns the company.
The House subsequently voted to censure Wilson. He came to reconsider his violation of congressional decorum, but made no mention of his son’s ownership stake when he released a letter to Palmetto State Armory President Jamin McCallum.
“I thank you for quickly suspending sales of the product that uses my words,” Joe Wilson wrote to Julian’s Wilson’s partner as if there were no connection.
The younger Wilson was present at Palmetto State Armory’s retail store in Summerville on Sunday. He stood with McCallum and witnessed Trump’s excitement on seeing a pistol bearing his likeness.
"Oh, I like that one,” Trump said. “Wow.”
He then said, “I want to buy one.”
But federal law prohibits anyone under indictment from purchasing a firearm, and Trump left the perfect gun shop without the gun.
Even so, he departed this bastion of Trumpism with what he is always looking for, what he hopes will make a majority of us so blind as to put him back in power.
“They like me,” he said.