Matt Canovi’s 40-year career with law enforcement has taken him to some pretty rough places. He’s been undercover with the Drug Enforcement Administration, training police forces in Nigeria, a certified UN police officer in Bosnia and a detective.
The last four decades, he’s focused on protecting people or helping them learn to protect themselves. Legislative changes this past year with Senate Bill 656 – which relaxed concealed carry weapons licensing – have left his niche market wobbly.
Canovi, owner of Canovi and Associates LLC, a concealed carry training business, finds himself pivoting after the legislative changes decimated his portion of the gun industry.
“It has reduced concealed carry demand by 50-60 percent,” he says. “The legislation has not increased gun purchases. What was doing that for a while was the election: People were afraid that Hillary [Clinton] was going to get in.”
Previously, concealed carry weapon holders required approval by sheriff departments in Missouri. Although some restrictions apply, SB 656’s “Stand your Ground” provisions allow individuals to carry concealed weapons without any training or permit fees.
Canovi decided to put his 40 years of law enforcement and weapons training to good use when he retired from the police department and took his concealed carry training work full-force in 2006. Initially a part-time venture, Canovi’s wife urged him to fully embrace entrepreneurism.
Canovi and Associates started with concealed carry and advanced firearm training for handguns and rifles.
“We’ve authored some books, some DVDs and have a radio show on Saturdays from 7-9 a.m., where we talk about firearms, personal defense, ammunition, concealed carry,” he says.
Canovi also does consulting work for private military companies DynCorp International and Academi, as well as the local branch of Securitas. Mike Nettles, Springfield branch manager of Securitas, said customer requests due to active shooter scenarios around the country led to armed guard and officer training through Canovi.
Canovi worked out a deal with GunSmoke Guns-Gold Exchange Pawn Inc., at Division Street and Glenstone Avenue, for the use of a classroom when he went full-time.
“You can call it feeding the cat. We allow him to have his courses upstairs and his customers come in the front door and become our customers,” says Steve Schlichting, co-owner of GunSmoke. “We believe in his principles, the way he conducts himself, his life and his business.”
For years before the legislation, Canovi had 15-20 students per class every Saturday. After the legislation, they’ve cut down to just two Saturdays a month and 5-10 students.
Declining to disclose revenue, Canovi says concealed carry work used to be 50 percent of his business, but it’s now 25 percent. He’s offset the drop with bail bond training and consulting work. Advanced training accounts for 40 percent of business and the book and DVD materials make up the final 10 percent.
Canovi also takes issue with safety concerns created by the legislation. His belief – and that of many gun trainers and enthusiasts – is that the legislation wasn’t well thought out.
“I think guns should be owned by responsible gun owners,” he says. “I think any responsible gun owner will get training in gun safety and training about when you can and cannot use deadly force.”
Canovi says there are plenty of myths out there – for example, that people can use deadly force against someone if there is attempted car theft.
“So, now you’ve got people out there with no training on safety who don’t even know when they can use the gun legally,” he says. “There is big jeopardy to the community.”
His classes were $65 apiece, plus the Bass Pro Shops’ range fee of $11, for a full day of training with a shooting test for certification. Classes will soon be lowered to $50, plus the range fee. Now, he’s not only had to lower rates.
To diversify, Canovi’s law enforcement experience allows him to step into a new niche created by legislation this past year: bail bond training, which is now licensed through the Missouri Department of Insurance.
“It used to be that bail bondsmen were pretty unregulated and caused some problems. So, they passed legislation that they would be brought under the Missouri Department of Insurance and they’ve set up licensing, training, continuing education training,” he says.
The diversification also includes contract work training police departments overseas as well as threat assessment and risk analysis for local companies.
One of the biggest surprises was his leap into women’s weapon training. Through Stacy Bright, an instructor certified by the NRA for pistols and rifles and Missouri’s concealed carry courses, Canovi introduced women-only concealed carry classes.
“Women and guns is a separate market in and of itself,” he says, noting the 10-15 female students per class has remained steady post-legislative changes. “I’ve been happily surprised at that.”
Bright says she began working with Canovi about five years ago.
“What I’ve found through the women’s-only concealed carry classes is they feel freer to ask the questions they have,” says Bright, who’s also leader of the local chapter of The Well Armed Woman, a women-only shooting group comprising 10,000 members among 300 chapters nationwide. “It’s a more comfortable environment.”
Canovi has a 40-acre facility a few miles north of Bolivar for advanced weapons training, with moving targets and a two-room shoot house. He hopes to eventually move the business there.
Over half of Branson Cove properties under contract, sold.
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