Duluth Pack, the Twin Ports outfitter known for 125 years of handcrafted pack-making, paddled into choppy waters on social media Tuesday, when it posted what some viewers saw as a provocative photo to promote a new conceal-and-carry product.
The post appeared on the company’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and showed a close-up of a handgun being withdrawn from a canvas satchel.
"A new way to exercise your right to carry," the post states.
When contacted by the News Tribune on Wednesday, the owner of the Duluth-based manufacturer of canvas bags and outdoor gear and clothing declined to address the outcry.
"We don't want to make any comment," owner Tom Sega said.
Debates flared in the comment sections under the product photo. Gun-control proponents admonished the ad, while enthusiasts applauded the company for introducing a new option to its line of gun-related products, which already include other conceal-and-carry bags and handbags. Others said they didn't object to the product, but questioned the imagery.
The back-and-forth was familiar to anyone associated with the swift and sometimes volatile reactions on social media.
"You've lost me as a customer," said one person.
"Thank you for designing a high quality conceal carry bag," said another who claimed to be the owner of one of the company's larger gun-toting products for more than 30 years.
Twitter reactions seemed to be prevailingly critical, while the other mediums included more widespread opinions from along the spectrum of gun debate and gun ownership.
The newly introduced $225 satchel joins a line of gun-related Duluth Pack accessories - some designed for day-to-day use and others for sport shooting, including rifle cases and rifle-carrying backpacks.
Long valued for its sturdy product construction and lifetime guarantees, Duluth Pack is in the midst of an unprecedented string of commercial successes - from its products appearing on music tours to becoming the question to an answer on the game show "Jeopardy!" Most recently, it had its No. 4 Original Duluth Pack featured prominently throughout the blockbuster movie "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle."
Duluth Pack is a frequent marketer on social media. The conceal-and-carry post was not yet close to being among the company's most viewed or "liked" posts, according to data across the sites. But the response was unusual in terms of the number of comments, which were rising into the hundreds Wednesday when tallied across all media.