BB gun for sale triggers dispute

Cottle’s customer refers to BB gun with ‘intolerable’ and ‘offensive’ slur.

The BB gun that Kimberly took issue with. The store has since sold the BB gun. — Brian Dowd

A dispute over the sale of BB guns at E.C. Cottle Inc., in West Tisbury ended with a West Tisbury man referring to the guns with a racial slur.

Cottle’s, a lumber supply company, recently began selling different models of BB guns in a locked display case in front of its cash register counter, along with flashlights, sunglasses, and pocket knives. The display case was brought in as an additional buffer between Cottle’s employees and customers, as part of the store’s COVID protocols. The BB guns are displayed on the bottom shelf of the case, with a printout of Massachusetts laws on the sale of air or BB guns.

Cottle’s manager Libby Soo Hoo, who was not in the store at the time of the incident, told The Times the store added BB guns to its inventory for its customers. “A lot of our customers are gun enthusiasts, hunters, and whatnot,” Soo Hoo said. “They’ve been pretty well received. They’re not our main product, but we do sell one on occasion.”

Some customers have reacted favorably to the BB guns, Soo Hoo said, but others have objected to them. She said the store is happy to have an open discussion about them.

But office manager Dana Darcy, who was present during the incident, said he drew the line when West Tisbury resident Bob Kimberly used a racial slur, calling the BB guns “n_____-killers.” 

“We don’t tolerate that,” he said.

After the incident, Kimberly created a post on the Islanders Talk Facebook page saying he inquired about the BB guns and was kicked out. “Last-minute gift idea for Junior?” the post stated. “Cottle’s — the lumberyard, is selling this gun in a case by the checkout counter. It’s made, according to their own publicity, to look like an almost exact copy of the Colt King Cobra 357 Magnum. ‘Your friends won’t believe it’s not the real thing.’ It’s called the Vigilante. What recent events does that name evoke? Turns out it fires BBs and pellets, not bullets, but it’s a semiautomatic and ‘shoots as fast as you can pull the trigger,’ and at 465 feet per second. This isn’t your old Daisy BB rifle. This is a dark, people killer fantasy gun — meant, we assume, for dads to buy for their sons. At Cottle’s. The lumber yard. I objected. They threw me out.”

Kimberly did not mention his use of the racial slur. The post has since been deleted. Lori Robinson Fisher, the Facebook page’s moderator, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Soo Hoo said Kimberly was immediately asked to leave after using the offensive language, not for objecting to the sale of the BB guns.

“We’re more than happy to respectfully have a conversation about that, but that is not what Mr. Kimberly did,” Soo Hoo said. “He took the opportunity to be aggravated and used some words that were intolerable and offensive, and he was asked to leave after using those words. It was very upsetting, and we will not tolerate that at all. We will not tolerate disrespect. We will not tolerate use of those words. It was just completely unacceptable.”

Soo Hoo said Cottle’s employs people of many races and ethnicities. 

“My coworkers downstairs were very upset,” she said. “Shaking, the looks on their faces, flabbergasted, offended. I’ve never quite seen anything like that, and it’s just not OK. I feel bad my coworkers had to deal with that … I wish I could prevent those things from happening, but we can’t always do that.”

Speaking to The Times by phone, Kimberly, who is white, admitted he used the racial slur.

“I was getting no reaction from them and I said, ‘What do you think Vigilante means? Does it have a good connotation? Does it mean a killing gun?’ Still no reaction, and then I said, ‘Maybe they should call it the n_____-killer’; I was trying to get their attention. I was mad,” Kimberly said.

Outside the store, after being asked to leave, Kimberly said he apologized to Darcy that he “used strong language.”

“I hope you understand I wasn’t calling anyone that,” Kimberly said of his use of the racial slur. Asked again why he would say that, given how offensive it is, Kimberly said, “Yeah, and I don’t use the word,” before explaining he was one of the youngest white people to go to the March on Washington in 1963.

“I was trying to make a strong point because what they were doing by selling this thing was pretty strong. They weren’t getting it. The word vigilante didn’t seem to ring any bells. Imagine if you were a black person, walked in and saw this ‘vigilante.’”

Ahmaud Aubrey was killed by three men in South Carolina who claimed they were protecting their neighborhood. The men were convicted of murder in a trial, and will be sentenced next month.

“The whole world knows that the United States is by far the biggest gun-crazed nation in the world,” Kimberly said. “That’s the real story. Not some guy saying a word you’re not supposed to say.”

The BB gun Kimberly was referring to was a carbon dioxide–powered Crosman Vigilante Revolver Air Pistol, referred to as “a double-action, semi-auto revolver that shoots pellets and BBs,” according to a listing on Cabela’s website. “It’s powered by carbon dioxide and shoots pellets up to 435 fps through a 6-inch rifled steel barrel.”


  1. I have politely expressed my opinion that I don’t think these guns are appropriate for a lumber yard. But I didn’t notice that it was called the vigilante. That’s pretty bad– Maybe Cottles should get one that looks like an ar-15 and call it the crusader, so they can offend Muslims also.
    I totally agree with Kimberley’s sense of outrage. I get that he was trying to make a point.
    But he went too far and Cottles was absolutely within their bounds to throw him out.
    But before everybody starts to jump on Kimberly, keep in mind that he is no Eric Woods.
    He is far from a racist.

    I can’t wait to hear from the real racist about this comment.

        • Aron, conservative Republicans hate liberals. It’s who they are, even at Christmas. Rather than defend why on earth a lumber yard sells BB guns for some gun-obsessed customers (who, btw, have, uh, issues that we all know about) they attack liberals because they’re afraid laws might finally recognize the need for better gun control. The gun boys can’t discuss why a “toy” gun that can still take out an eye shouldn’t be called “vigilante”. Racists can’t either.

          • Jackie. Jackie. Jackie.

            At this point I believe your posts are here to troll others.

            Yikes. Do you actually believe what you’re typing?

          • While I’m polite enough not discuss the question of “issues,” (it’s only Tuesday, give me time), Ms Mendez-Diez is spot on.

            Deliberately trigger conservatives? Nope. Besides, liberals do more to protect conservatives than conservatives themselves.

        • Just beneath the surface all Conservatives make unfounded sweeping generalities.
          Like Donald Trump won by a landslide.
          Don’t worry the voter fraud cases are about to filed by Mike Pillow. Mark Meadows will be the prosecutor…

      • Alex– Yup, everybody can get “triggered” I don’t think anyone is immune to it. Fortunately he didn’t pull out a real gun and blow everybody away.

      • That’s funny and also easy to do as liberal’s are trigger happy. On another note Cottles said they do not sell many and I think they would be better off selling lumber in a lumberyard.

    • Cottles is a business and they are free to sell anything they are legally allowed to do. That’s like saying it’s not appropriate for a Mexican restaurant to sell hot dogs.

      • They’re allowed so well whatever they want! Completely agree! Just like I’m allowed to wear a mask or not, my body my choice.

  2. I’m not expecting to see BB guns for sale in my local lumber yard. Disappointed, Cottles. Please reconsider this, moving forward. Thank you.

  3. Cottles needs to immediately take the “vigilante” off the shelf. Shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

  4. Hi, Bob K. here. I sent apologies to the Cottles staff on two occasions. I hope the message got through. I was pretty shocked at seeing the guns for sale by the counter and as the article says, when I was unable to get my point across about the offensive connotations of the word Vigilante, I said something like, “suppose they called it the….” Whether they got it or not ceased to matter as I, against my better judgement and out of exasperation uttered THE WORST WORD IN THE WORLD. I guess I won’t be doing that again. it’s true I’ve been politically active since I was 15 and was one of only 3 white people who went to the March on Washington from my hometown. I’ve attended all the Black Lives Matter events-and every Gun control rally as well.
    The day I found myself in Cottles was the 9th anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. A young man infatuated with guns killed 28 people, most of them little kids. Since then we’ve been through Parkland-17 kids and countless other tragedies. Just 2 weeks ago a boy in a school in Michigan murdered 4 students with a semi-automatic hand gun his parents bought him. After all the hand wringing, what’s been done? Right?
    The Vigilante semi-automatic does only shoot bbs, but according to the manufacturer’s own literature it is meant to be a copy of a Colt Cobra, a deadly 357 mag. pistol. “Your friends will hardly be able to tell the difference.” I certainly couldn’t.
    Clearly these aren’t your father’s old Daisy rifle bb gun. They’re marketing is much more cynical.
    So there you have it. Last year 39,707 Americans were killed by guns. Also a guy on Martha’s Vineyard said THE WORST WORD IN THE WORLD. Chose the relevant headline.
    P.S. I apologized and promise to never say it again. -Thanks, Bob

    • Bob, the repeated use of caps when referring to THE WORST WORD IN THE WORLD and the remark about headlines makes your mea culpa read as a lot less sincere to me. Seems highly sarcastic in context, as if you’re implying folks are being too sensitive. Was that your intention? I hope not. To many, that is indeed the worst word in the world, a justified take. Honoring this boundary at all times is a show of respect. It’s not optional if you want to walk your talk.

      Gun violence is horrific and needs more attention, but I think it’s fair to say that you shifted the focus when you chose to post about the incident and omitted your role. For someone so deeply enraged by another word’s significance — vigilante — you were quick to use a more vile one, then wrote that off as just some guy saying a word. Can’t have it both ways. Words obviously count.

      I can’t grasp worrying about the way Black customers may interpret a product’s tasteless branding while throwing around an overt slur in anger. The gun is extremely inappropriate and signifies a larger problem, no question. But while you can never control anyone else, you have full say over the racist language that comes out of your mouth. Chip Coblyn’s comment sums up why language matters so much. You never know who might walk in the door or what effect you may have on someone else. Also, most employees do not make buying decisions for a business. They’re not necessarily in charge of what’s for sale or able to pull it from inventory.

      I’m glad they were offered apologies and agree that no one needs this item.

  5. Bob K. again. I was writing quickly and see now a couple of typos. Sorry, no way to go back and change them. I should add that I told the reporter that I’d contacted Cottles to apologize for losing my temper and that I wouldn’t be pursuing the matter further . I’d said my piece-clumsy as it was. I asked him to not do an article on this as it’s really a tempest in a teapot, but I guess it’s a slow news week and tabloids need controversy. I have no ill will against the store manager and truly hope he accepts my apologies. As for the reporter, well….

    • Bob– You crossed a line–
      But I get it– The decision by the management to put this ” vigilante” weapon for sale is atrocious and clueless What is more offensive ? Bob –You used an offensive word, but Cottles is selling a weapon named the “vigilante ? the fact that they were selling an offensively named item negates any morality they may have . really ? The Vigilante ?
      How freaking offensive is that ?

      • You’re absolutely right, Don. Conservative Republicans stick up for all kinds of violent vigilantism, especially racist vigilantism.

      • Don, Thanks. Well that certainly was my thinking at the time. After my initial reaction though I probably should have asked to speak to the manager about it in private. The article above says that it was very upsetting to the ladies behind the counter. I wasn’t taking that into account, and i doubt they had anything to do with the decision to sell the thing.

  6. Neither the article or the commenters have mentioned the most dangerous aspect of this gun: it looks like a real bullet firing gun. How many kids will be shot by the police when a kid brandishes one of these? In NYC toy guns are required to be a bright dayglo color so they can easily be seen as a toy and not a real firearm. How irresponsible for any parent who gives one of these to their kid.

    • Thank you for making a very important and overlooked point. I’d add that black kids and other kids of color would be far more at risk of being shot than white kids, and that parents of color know this and would be highly unlikely (understatement of the century) to give one to their child. Can anyone *not* be thinking of Tamir Rice at this point? Tamir was a 12-year-old Cleveland boy fatally shot in 2014 for having in his possession a “lifelike” toy pistol.

  7. Thank-you, Bob. I understand your frustration, and I think I also understand how it took you to the point of uttering the unacceptable. As painful as the simple utterance of that word is to those of us who have, at too many points in our lives, been battered by it, you didn’t direct it at someone; you used it to get their attention. A poor decision but it certainly worked. I know you’re a decent, kind human being, and while Cottles did the right thing, I hope that more attention will be paid to, and questions asked about, the item they’re selling, than to your ill-considered verbiage.
    I have 2 BB guns; both cannot be mistaken for anything else. Why would anyone want/need something that pretends to be a deadly weapon, other than compensating for certain shortcomings?

  8. It’s hard to imagine what kind of parent would want to buy this real looking gun for their child! And– I hope Cottles will immediately decide that they don’t really want to further promote the American love affair with assault weapons.

  9. A very poor choice of words spoken in a heated moment and with a prompt apology. And with no racist intent. I think we can all accept that and move on. Frankly, I find the outrage from BOTH sides encouraging and heartwarming. When non-white America is moved to such passion with regards to racism, we have to be on the right, if not far-too-slow track.

  10. After much reflection and a couple sleepless nights I feel I need to again publicly express my apologies to the 3 Cottles employees who were present that day. I realized soon after that I’d come off as rude and had used inappropriate language, but seeing the article I feel particularly bad that I’d gotten one of them really upset. I didn’t think I was being scary but I guess that was the impression. I’m really sorry to have caused that. Anger and strong emotions don’t do anything but set off an angry response. I thought I knew this, but clearly I need to do some more work on myself.
    Also, I want to be clear that I don’t mean to imply that anyone at Cottles was condoning vigilantism. They’re decent folks and shouldn’t have been put on the spot. My argument is with the gun manufacture and the their choice of naming the thing.It was Something that should have been pointed out to the manager certainly but, not in so strong a way.
    There are deep divides in the country and even here on the island. Drawing lines between “us and them” doesn’t solve problems. I guess I was doing just that.
    Again, sorry. Thanks.

    • Hi Bob, my name is Kyle Williams and I’m the creator of A Long Talk About The Uncomfortable truth. We are currently working with residents of MV to help foster productive conversations about race, and empower anti-racism activism. We have over 100 people on the island who have joined our MV Community of Change over the last few months. ( ). I respect that you have explained your thinking and admitted your error in this situation. Seriously, it takes a lot to do that publicly and I appreciate your statement. As you may know from your previous experiences, the work of creating a more perfect Union in America by rooting out racism is messy and there’s no playbook with the rules. As a country NONE of us have been taught how to be actively anti-racist so we often make mistakes even with our best intentions. To that end, I’d like to invite you to check out the work we are doing and join us for our next Community Conversation in January if you are interested and available. Every opportunity to continue this conversation gets us another step closer to truly being able to understand the depth of this struggle and the role we can all play in making it better. I hope you will decide to become part of the group of people who are working towards cultivating a culture of change on the island. We are doing our part at A Long Talk, and are always looking for more allies to step up to the frontline with us. Only you and I can end racism! Together We Can!

      • Yes. Thank you Kyle. This is the kind of outreach , empathy and intellectual sharing we need in this county right now. I encourage any buisness owner to sign up for this free course . Kyle and his team are changing hearts and minds across America.

  11. Just for the record—
    police have killed 86 people who were armed with toy guns in the last 2 years.
    It is unknown how many armed robberies have been facilitated with the help of realistic looking weapons.–but-arent/2016/12/18/ec005c3a-b025-11e6-be1c-8cec35b1ad25_story.html

    But let me throw in a little humor:
    George Carlin’s 7 dirty words monologue.

  12. The issue really is not one person’s hurtful language and anger at unabated gun violence and violent vigilantism in this country. Rather, it’s the disgusting acceptance of the systemic pro violence that allows a lumber store to peddle “vigilante” BB guns. This is on Cottles. Bob brought it to the community’s attention.

    The squeaky wheel gets the oil. The more polite customer objections, like from Don, were ignored by Cottles.

    This is reminding me of LeRoux using racist imagery for holiday decorations to sell olive oil, and then giving us the BS about how they didn’t know blackface was racist.

    Will Cottles be apologizing and stop selling this disgustingly offensive vigilante garbage? Will they tell us they didn’t know, even after customers more politely complained? As long as Cottles is selling vigilante bb guns, they condone violent vigilantism.

      • Read the article. There’s nothing theoretical about what I wrote. The store manager herself says some customers object. You can either read her excuses as to why Cottles sells “vigilante” BB guns, or you can do what you did and just go straight to lying about what I wrote.

        Why is it always a conservative Republican who wants to argue with false statements in favor of things like violent vigilantism or systemic racism? Denying the fact that customers object to the sale of realistic looking “vigilante” BB guns in a lumber store is the same as promoting what they’re selling.

        I ask again: Will Cottles be apologizing for selling offensive merchandise that promotes violent vigilantism? Or will they continue to coddle their “gun enthusiasts, hunters, and WHATNOT” customers, the “whatnot” ones clearly having no problem with the promotion of vigilante violence? Really, who is going to buy a BB gun marketed like this? And who is going to sell it??? Cottles.

        • Obviously, there is a demand for the product.
          Business is the business of America.
          That is the American way.
          I am kind of surprised that this is a story in the newspaper. I haven’t noticed any coverage of the construction activities at the new marine terminal at Packer’s. Did I miss it? That subject would interest me a lot more.

          • There was also a demand that a free and fair election be overturned by a lot of Americans who believed a lying, traitorous President. Demand for something disgusting does not make it acceptable to decent Americans. Vigilantism has no place here in a lumber yard, of all places. Cottles is coddling the worst in people and you excuse it as if making money makes everything okay. What next, buying pornography for little Johnny to put under the Christmas tree? I guess if the President of the United States can pay off the porn star he cheated with, why not make pornography an acceptable Xmas gift for your grandchildren?

    • Please stop. Cottles is a business. They have every right to sell whatever they are legally allowed to sell, whether it conforms to what your idea of what they should be selling or not. No one is outraged that Sharkeys Cantina sells chicken wings and burgers. It’s the same thing. This is America, if you don’t like it then go you don’t need to give them business. Stop with the cancel culture BS, it’s ridiculous. I doubt my comment will pass through the ridiculous censors.

      • Mike– I have a construction business registered with the town of Tisbury.
        I do carpentry work in my shop located on my property.
        I don’t think the town would allow me to turn my shop into a strip club.
        You could have shown at least a little creativity in your ridiculous comment about no one complaining about Sharkey’s selling wings and burgers.
        Sharkey’s is licensed as a restaurant, with a liquor license. That does not mean they can sell unopened bottles of hard liquor, cases of beer and wine.
        Nor can they sell used cars in the parking lot.
        The only reason that Cottles can be in business today, is because they were grandfathered in as a lumber yard when zoning regulations came into effect.
        I doubt there is any mention of selling guns in their business agreement with the town.
        Yes they are selling guns…
        By the way– read the rules about commenting here–There is nothing in your comment that would even come close to being censored.
        Your paranoia about the ridiculous concept of “cancel culture” is getting the better of you.

      • hmmm. a lot here….so – please post credible accounts of persons (of any color) having been victimized for carrying a chicken wing. Also, where is the cancel-culture call you’re referring to ? Personally, I think Cottle’s is a GREAT business which I will continue to support, but that does not preclude the ability to see a shortsighted decision, tone-deaf to the ongoing problem of racism in our country. So. Please stop. Before you comment on a sensitive issue to many, and perhaps “stretch” to see nuance, and appreciate that these discussions are a large part of our path forward.

  13. For 27 years I have been lucky to summer in Edgartown, the location where I honeymooned with my wife 56 years ago. We have done a number of significant projects with the help of E.C.Cottle’s and I have particularly benefited from the assistance and insight of Mike at the West Tisbury site. For my many projects down here in NYC, I often return home with a mini-van full of lumber because no place down here has such quality. I think of the place as a wood emporium. I hope they can return to their roots and respond to this issue as gracefully as Bob Kimberly has. He should not be the only one apologizing.
    Frank M.

  14. Seems to be plenty of talk over a few words that you here in many rap songs over and over again. Tune into many current comedians and and here these same words. It seems to be ok for one group of people to use certain words but not another. Time to clean up all language by all people. Either your precious words are bad for all or ok for all.

    • How can an English-speaking/writing adult not know the difference between HERE and HEAR? No wonder you have trouble understanding how words are used and misused.

      • Typical Liberal response. Attack the writer but not responding to a legitimate point. The N-word is a part of countless rap songs yet never any outrage over it’s use. Why is that?

          • Another example of a Liberal not responding to a legitimate point. What’s your response to the N word being used over and over again in rap songs??

          • Mr Axel: There are noted Blacks who do not approve of racist lyrics in songs by Blacks, yet it happens. Yes, an allowance is made when it is Blacks using that word.

            The Lesson: When Whites making racist language in rap songs a defense for their use of said words, they very likely are stepping over the line.

        • John–I could not care less about who uses that word in rap songs. Or on the street , Or how often–A1 rights.

          I do care when someone claims that liberals are the ones who attack people rather than than their opinions or their policies.
          That , buddy, is true hypocrisy.

    • Bob and John –There is this thing called “context”
      For example
      A female dog is called a “bitch”
      An animal in the horse family is called an “ass”.
      A common name for a man is “Dick”
      I could certainly use each of these words in a sentence and have the moderator here censor them.
      Please look at my link about George Carlin’s 7 dirty words posted on Dec 18.

      • It takes an enormous amount of ignorance and full acceptance of promoting systemic racism to believe that rap music legitimizes white people using a racial slur, as John A and Bob M suggest here. You don’t need a phd to Google “ n-word and rap music” if anyone is seriously interested in seeing that within the Black community there is controversy over use of this racial slur in music and poetry— a slur made up by white people to demean Black people. The word is “acceptably” used in white literature, as well— Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick, for example. Bob and John’s ignorant comments make the point of why CRT should be taught in schools. We want our kids to read books like Huck Finn, and we want our kids, of all colors, to understand racism is systemic in this country, including why some white people want to excuse the inexcusable language in a lumber store. When Black culture and art uses the word to desensitize us all to the horrendous impact of the word, that is a different kettle of fish from a an angry white guy upset over gun violence and the white business promoting it.

        Cottles is promoting gun violence by selling a BB gun called VIGILANTE. Seriously, they may as well sell porno for kids since they want to please some sick customers who’d like a side of it to go with their plywood.

        This is the sort of “excuse” for unacceptable language in a context that has nothing ti do with music, culture, or desensitization. The rap music excuse takes the emphasis away from the fact that Cottles promotes violent vigilantism by selling violent-promoting garbage in their lumber yard.

  15. being a former cottle employee in charge of hardware i was surprised to see this,i live in seattle now and the cops here would just shoot you dead if they saw you with this,they take guns away from young teens every day if they don’t shoot them.i’m wondering whose brilliant idea this was?

  16. Why won’t this system let me print out the comments – for us oldsters who are hard of computer sight.

    • George– If you are using google chrome, In the upper right hand corner of the screen, You will notice 3 little dots in a vertical arrangement just below the “x” that closes everything out.
      If you click once on them, a drop down menu will appear.. One of the options says “zoom” with a little box that will have a % number in it .
      there is a minus sign on the left, and a + sign on the right. Clicking on the plus will make text bigger.
      I am pretty sure all browsers have some version of that.

  17. Same gun…

    Oberlin police arrest 3 boys by park pavilion with BB guns
    At the time, the officers did not know that these were BB guns, according to the Oberlin Police Department’s Facebook page.

    The officers and sergeant recommended that the following charges be pursued through Lorain County Juvenile Court: inducing panic, discharging firearms and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

  18. The people working at Cottle didn’t name this item.

    The people at Crosman Corp did. They also made the decision to market to kids.

    Direct all this energy to them, not to your neighbors.

    • Neighbors who see nothing wrong with making a buck off promoting vigilante gun violence are lousy neighbors. I’d avoid supporting them the same way I avoid doing business with antivaxers. Good neighbors care about what’s good for the community more than they care about the almighty dollar. They don’t shrug their shoulders when it’s pointed out they’re promoting vigilante gun violence. They’ve sold the pictured gun— even after the criticism they’re getting. That tells me all I need to know about Cottles.

  19. i remember being in cottle’s shop back in 2016, the radio was talking about the upcoming election: the shop guy said, i wont vote for obama, he will take our guns away, i think guilliani would be a good president. . nuf said.

      • R scott– don’t tell that to the shop guy .. While Obama may not have actually been on the ticket, he was still going to be the real president because Hillary was too busy selling children out of the basement of a pizza place with no basement to actually make any decisions. And now, Obama and Susan Rice ( ?) are actually running the government because Biden is so incapable of leading. And Biden is not really Biden , but a look alike.
        And yes, Obama is still working behind the scenes with Osama Bin Laden to secretly impose Sharia law in the U.S and take away our guns. Even BB guns. Don’t you read newsmax and watch info wars ?
        But I can’t quite figure put why George Soros is using lasers based in space to start forest fires in California. Andy ? could you help us out on that one ?

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