TAMPA - When a light-hearted Internet joke ruffled the wrong feathers, a Tampa gunsmith found himself in the midst of an online controversy that has gone viral.
Tampa gun designer Mark Serbu is used to making a lot of noise, but an online adventure this week has his ears ringing:
"Why don't you go kill yourself, or the world would be better off without you," he remembered aloud from recent Facebook messages. "I mean -- are you kidding me?"
Those were just some of the pointed posts and e-mails (a percentage he estimates to be less than 1 percent of the online correspondence he's seen so far) after word of his refusal to sell a .50-caliber sniper rifle to a member of New York City's SWAT team.
"And I told the guy," he recalled, "that we don't sell to law enforcement or state entities that can't be sold to a private citizen in that state."
Mark even linked that e-mail exchange to his Facebook account, which garnered support from other firearms aficionados who don't like the Empire State's gun-control laws.
However, when he made light of his decision by paraphrasing Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, with his famous "no soup for you" line, it was a different story.
A t-shirt concept of "Hey New York. No Serbu for you" turned into an instant internet sensation once designs featuring the surly soup server showed up online.
"I actually heard from the actual 'Soup Nazi' through Facebook, and I'm like 'Wow.' This social media is a double-edged sword."
Larry Thomas sent a message that he'd give Serbu the chance to stop using his image before "this becomes a legal battle."
"Obviously, his career has not been blossoming," Serbu dead-panned. "I think my gun's been in more movies than he has."
In fact, his "Serbu super shorty" has been featured in a load of Hollywood shoot-em-ups, and demand has never been higher. Of course, so too is the heat he's feeling.
"(Gunsmiths are treated like) we have horns and a tail and we run around with a pitchfork and we're plotting the death of children," he said, "but we don't."