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Not today: Moses Lake store owner emphasizes training, safety with firearms

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | April 1, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — The Latin motto of Guardian Arms is short and probably says it all.

“Non hodie.” Not today.

And it may seem clear why. Company founder, local law enforcement officer and firearms instructor Edgar Salazar wants to make sure every gun owner is safe, responsible and knows what they are doing so they can properly defend themselves, their families, and their neighbors, so no one is a victim.

Not today.

“I spent six years in the Marine Corps, did a couple of tours overseas, and after the Marines I was a private security contractor in Afghanistan,” Salazar said. “My whole adult life has kind of revolved around firearms or carrying firearms.”

“So I figured, why not teach others?” he added.

Which is what Guardian Arms does, though the new storefront at 208 S. Division St. in downtown Moses Lake will also allow the company to expand its operations, selling custom parts for AR-15 series rifles and even — once the federal firearms license is approved — other guns and ammunition.

Salazar said he started Guardian Arms two years ago, after fielding a number of requests from brand-new gun owners looking for some kind of training.

“At the time, I didn’t know anybody, so I said, ‘I think there’s an idea here,’” Salazar explained. “I went and got a business license, got insurance, and started teaching people. And it took off.”

The storefront, however, is new, opening just last Monday, and will give Salazar a place to teach his courses, as well as sell holsters and firearm add-ons and, when his federal firearms license arrives in about two months, to sell guns.

“With Tri-State Outfitters closing, one of two major gun stores in Moses Lake, I figured well, why not?” he said.

Salazar offers all-day classes for $250 that begin with the basics of firearms instruction — how a gun is made and how it works — as well as some range time to get familiar with a firearm. This demystifies a gun, Salazar said, and allows a new shooter to learn to fire the weapon without the fear and nervous anticipation that makes for poor marksmanship.

“That shooter anticipation goes away, and they really focus on every single fundamental, and when it comes to trigger control. That’s the biggest thing for any new shooter,” he said.

It is a skill and technique Salazar said he learned and honed as a shooting instructor in the U.S. Marine Corps, qualifying 94% of his students in the rifle range, with nearly half shooting “expert,” the corps’ highest level.

“I was that guy who handed you a rifle and said, ‘Hey, in two weeks I’m going to take you from zero knowledge to shooting 500 yards,’” he said. “I pretty much achieved that by being able to talk to people, being able to openly communicate and not make people feel stressed out when they shoot.”

Another major part of what he teaches is how best to think about deadly force, what people who are armed can and cannot do to defend themselves, their homes and their families.

“If you look at the (state law) for justifiable homicide by another, it’s a paragraph and a half long. That’s it. And that paragraph and a half doesn’t really answer any questions to any gun owner out there,” he said.

Salazar explained everything hinges on the definitions of the terms deadly weapon, malice, necessity, and great bodily harm. Suppose you hear a noise, he said, someone breaking into your kitchen, and you creep into your kitchen to see a shadowy figure.

“You feel unsafe and you shoot. What do you do when you turn the lights on and it’s a 15-year-old runaway girl who thought you weren’t home and just wanted some food?” he said.

She meant no harm, no threats were made and no one was in any danger, he said. While it’s not legal advice — Salazar states emphatically he is not an attorney — the law does set a very high bar for using lethal force, even in self-defense.

“I can’t just shoot somebody because they’re in my house,” Salazar added.

A lot of the various parts and add-ons Salazar sells relate to the AR-15 series of rifles, a weapon that was, for Salazar’s military and security careers, the tools of his trade. He aims to be a one-stop shop for custom AR-15 parts, largely because he’s always customized his own rifles.

Right now, though, without the federal firearms license, Salazar is limited to customizing the gun’s upper receiver — the barrel and the housing for the bolt — since that isn’t legally considered a firearm in the same way the lower receiver — which houses the trigger mechanism and the magazine — is.

“I own several, and I’m a big fan; I never purchased an AR from the shelf. I always built my own,” he said. “It would be nice if other people like me had a place in town where they can find any little part that they need for either a defensive pistol or an AR to customize and put together.”

Salazar said he has trained a lot of women and a lot of families as well — moms, dads and kids all looking to become familiar with guns. And noted in recent years, according to figures from the National Rifle Association, the number of women firearm owners has nearly tripled to 32% of all gun owners in the last five years.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility in the home to be safe,” he said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Charles H. Featherstone

Edgar Salazar holds an AR-15 upper receiver he custom created himself.

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The storefront of Guardian Arms at 208 S. Division Street in downtown Moses Lake.

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Charles H. Featherstone

Guardian Arms logo.