Engage Steve Wiesner in a conversation, and there's a good chance he'll ask, "Do you think I'm packing heat?"
Dressed in jeans and a long-sleeve button-down last week, he stood in his kitchen nook, extended his arms at his sides, turned in a circle and then sat down in an open posture, hands on his knees.
"Do I look like I'm armed?" he asked repeatedly. "Can you see a gun anywhere on me?"
After answering himself -- "That's for me to know and you not to know" -- out of his back pocket he pulls a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol in a rectangular holster called the Grip-It. Because of its shape and size, it resembles a wallet.
As Congress works to craft stiffer gun control laws and consumers wait for retailers to restock depleted supplies of firearms, Wiesner, 60, is back home trying to cash in. Wiesner owns DFW Concealed Holsters, which produces his Hide-It holster in Fort Worth. It and a few other holsters that Wiesner says he has either modified or endorsed are marketed by a company his daughter owns, Ultimate Concealed Carry, in Burbank, Calif.
Business is brisk. Firearms sales surged nationwide after the December shooting spree at a school in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults. As a result, Wiesner sells several hundred Hide-It holsters a month, and he hopes to boost production 20 times that or more.
"We are trying to grow this exponentially by empowering people all over the country, setting up dealers, doing gun shows and doing law enforcement training," he said.
'Not a pain'
The Hide-It goes inside the pants along the top of the thigh and clips to the wearer's belt. A cellphone case can be added above the clip and used as a handle to remove the holster and access the firearm.
The design makes the holster comfortable, convenient and "not a pain" -- the three main problems that Wiesner says discourage off-duty police officers and holders of a state concealed handgun license from wearing their firearms.
He's also a fan of the Flashbang, a small holster for women that hooks to the front of a bra. The name comes from the fact that a woman pulls up her shirt to access it (flash) and then presumably takes out her would-be assailant (bang.)
Wiesner was a regional sales manager for Yellow Pages who was on his way to a lunch meeting at the Luby's in Killeen in October 1991 when gunman Georges Hennard drove his pickup through a front window and killed 23 people.
The next day he bought a gun and vowed never to go without it, he said.
"The only two reasons why you shouldn't carry a gun are you think you're bulletproof or you're willing to die today for no good reason," he said. "I haven't had a flat tire in years, but I carry a spare in the trunk.
"Nobody says: 'I think I'm going to have a flat today, so I'm going to bring my spare.'"
Wiesner obtained a U.S. patent in 1996 for a holster he trademarked and marketed as the Pager Pal. In 2007, he signed away his interest and rights to satisfy debts he owed the Oklahoma City-based manufacturer, according to federal court records.
Meanwhile, after President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, people began stocking up on firearms and ammunition, fearful that he would add gun restrictions.
The postelection shopping spree eventually created a shortage, and it took nearly a year for supplies to become more plentiful and for prices to come down.
Wiesner returned to selling holsters, including the Hide-It, which too closely resembles the holster he signed away the rights to, according to a federal lawsuit filed in a District Court in Dallas by Carrollton-based Conceal City Llc., which says it holds the patent.
Wiesner said Tuesday that nobody, including him, is making the patented holster and that his name is still on the patent.
"A lawsuit can be filed by anyone for any reason if they can afford an attorney," he said. "It doesn't mean any of the info ... is correct or accurate."
Then came other mass shootings, including Newtown. Wiesner sees a vast untapped market of adults who may not have been interested in carrying a firearm before but may wish to start now.
"I'm like the preacher at church on Sunday," he said. "I'm not going to save everybody. But I'm still going to preach to them."
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