John Jovino Gun Shop

February 4, 1963   •    Three Gun Shipment    •    1962 Gold Cup
Tracing the History of my 1962 Colt Gold Cup National Match

Greg | 26 April 2024

Nestled in the heart of New York City's Little Italy, the John Jovino Gun Shop was a staple of the local community and a witness to the city’s evolving history for over a century. Established in 1911 by Italian immigrant John Jovino, this iconic establishment is recognized as the oldest gun shop in the United States and has served a diverse clientele, from police officers and security personnel to civilian enthusiasts and collectors.

Founding and Early Years

John Jovino founded his gun shop in a period when New York City was rapidly expanding both economically and demographically. Immigrants from all over the world were arriving in droves, seeking the American dream in its bustling streets and burgeoning industries. Jovino, an enterprising Italian immigrant, recognized the need for a reliable establishment that could provide firearms for both law enforcement and self-defense.

The shop originally catered primarily to local law enforcement agencies, supplying them with the necessary tools for maintaining public order in a city that was, at times, overwhelmed by crime and upheaval. As the city grew, so did the shop’s reputation for quality and reliability.
Photo by Jim.henderson, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons John Jovino Gun Shop

The Prohibition Era and the Great Depression

During the 1920s and 1930s, the United States faced significant social and economic challenges, notably Prohibition and the Great Depression. These periods saw a rise in organized crime and widespread economic hardship. John Jovino Gun Shop became a critical supplier of firearms for defense against the increasing crime rates that troubled the city.

The shop thrived despite the economic downturn, owing to its essential role in public safety and personal security. It also became a discreet hub for private security firms and individuals seeking to protect their businesses and homes against the rising tide of bootlegging and mob violence.

Photo by Lamberto Zannotti, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons John Jovino Gun Shop
World War II and Post-War Expansion

World War II brought about a surge in national pride and a boom in all industries related to the war effort, including firearms manufacturing and sales. During this time, John Jovino Gun Shop expanded its inventory to include not only handguns and shotguns but also military surplus firearms that were in high demand.

Following the war, the baby boom and a robust post-war economy fueled further growth for the shop. New York City saw significant demographic shifts and an increased focus on suburban living, which brought new markets and customers to John Jovino’s doorstep. The shop adapted to these changes by expanding its offerings to include hunting rifles and recreational shooting supplies, catering to a broader audience.

Author's Gun Shipped to Jovino's February 4, 1963 1962 Colt Gold Cup

The Civil Rights Era and Changes in Gun Legislation

The 1960s and 1970s were tumultuous decades for the United States, marked by the Civil Rights Movement, heightened political activism, and significant changes in gun control legislation. The Gun Control Act of 1968, in particular, reshaped the landscape of firearm sales across the country, including at John Jovino Gun Shop.

Despite these challenges, the shop remained committed to its principles of promoting responsible gun ownership and adhering strictly to federal and state laws. It became a place for spirited discussions on the rights of citizens and the responsibilities of gun owners, reflecting broader national debates.

The Modern Era and Legacy

As the years progressed, the John Jovino Gun Shop continued to serve the needs of New Yorkers, adapting to the latest trends and technologies in firearms and security. Although the neighborhood around it changed, with Little Italy shrinking and the city becoming more gentrified, the shop remained a constant, a piece of New York’s history preserved in time.

Throughout its history, John Jovino Gun Shop was more than just a retail store; it was a part of the fabric of New York City. It witnessed the transformations of the city from the days of the Tammany Hall political machine to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and beyond.

In May 2020, after 109 years of continuous operation, the John Jovino Gun Shop closed its doors, a victim of the economic pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its closure marked the end of an era for New York City's oldest gun shop, leaving behind a legacy intertwined with the history of the city itself.

The story of the John Jovino Gun Shop offers a unique perspective on the social, economic, and political changes that have shaped New York City over the past century. As historians and enthusiasts look back on its storied past, they see not just a gun shop, but a historical landmark that stood steadfast through a century of change.

~ The End

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