Politicos, please note: This is a reposting of my original gun show post, to correspond with my A World of Progress Radio show segment on the same subject. Tune in to www.blogtalkradio.com/awop to listen to the segment at 4P/7E today or to listen to the podcast, or download us at iTunes. Enjoy!
When friends asked me if I’d like to go to the gun show at the local fairgrounds, I was hesitant. I mean, really? Just because I’ve learned to shoot recently doesn’t mean I have to dive in head first into the whole subculture…but the more I thought about it, the more intriguing the offer became. It’d be like an undercover operation, a double-agent sort of thing. No one would have to know I’m a liberal, and for a mere ten bucks, I could check out the gun show: look around, ask questions, people-watch, pick up pamphlets, etc. Who knows what I would discover? I called my friends Melissa and Kelby to accept their offer, and we made plans for the next morning.
We rolled in at around 11:15 a.m., and the lot was already 3/4 full. Though the place had been open for three hours already, no one appeared to be leaving. We trudged toward the front to buy our tickets. Immediately to our left was an NRA booth, flying the American flag, with “Join NOW!” and “Protecting Your Right To Bear Arms” plastered all over the front. I wasn’t quite ready for that discussion, so we bought our tickets. Two signs were posted prominently on the ticket window: “No Loaded Weapons Beyond This Point,” (holy shit, what am I getting into?) and “Your wife called and said you can buy anything you want!” Apparently the latter is a little humor to take the edge off the former… After forking over $10, I am handed a ticket and we head in.
Even before we got inside the gate, out comes Davey-friggin’-Crocket, complete with fur hat and rifles cradled in both arms. “Okay, this is gonna be good,” I whispered to Missy. She repied, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Sister!”
And she was right. As we approached the entrance, a booth appeared in front of us, with a red and white banner stating, in bold letters, “CLEAR ALL GUNS HERE” – WHAAATT? Now, there’s a line of text I have never read before. Apparently, you are welcome to bring your guns, large or small, as long as you stop and register them before entering. Guns are checked to make sure they are empty and on safety, and are registered as yours and tagged to prove your ownership. Wow. This is getting more interesting all the time.
The next sign? “No Cameras Allowed” Damn. Damn! Not even in the gates yet, and they’ve broken my little liberal heart.
So you’ve checked your gun and gotten in the gates. Now what? Immediately inside the fence from where you unloaded your gun is a seriously huge stand of ammo – all calibers, boxes piled on boxes piled on boxes, a good 3 feet deep and 5 feet high, actually forming the walls of the booth. I imagine that’s so you can reload…scary thought. Ammo is cheap and flowing like water in this right-wing land o’ plenty. You can even buy a hand-truck if you left yours at home. Bullets are heavy, you know…
We enter the first of three buildings, and there’s most definitely a survivalist bent. Smack-dab ahead of us is a banner advertising food that will last 30 years or more. Because, you know, in these uncertain times, you never know when you’ll need to hide in the comfort of your backyard bunker for thirty years. And why not have some great cuisine available? Beef jerky and other types of dried meat are plentiful as well; every flavor and every kind of dried beast you can imagine: standard beef, elk, venison and more. Nearby, you can buy actual MREs – Meals Ready to Eat, military rations. We even see a field kitchen for sale. Where do they get this stuff? No one will say.
As I am looking around, there are guns and gun parts as far as the eye can see. Rifles, pistols, guns from the 1800′s until today, and, of course, more ammo. Oh, and toys. Yes, toys. Because, ladies and gentlemen, this is a family event. Bring little Johnny on down, in his head-to-toe camo, and show him what the Nazis used to wear. Buy him those clackers you had as a kid and a neat vintage lighter embellished with a “KKK Member In Good Standing” medallion (saw it with my own eyes. Swear to God.) Something for the little lady, perhaps? How about a hot pretzel, diet soda and a pink taser in a cute case?
Speaking of the customers at the show, well, I don’t ever remember being surrounded by so many white people in a looooong time. Everyone was white. There were five African-Americans, and a handful of Hispanic dealers. There were a few skinheads in the crowd: young white guys, shaved heads, wearing the “uniform” of the movement. Another strange phenomenon was noticed by our friend Joanna. She’s Asian, and wondered allowed what the deal was with the Asian dealers selling all the Nazi paraphernalia. “What is up with that???” she asked.
I couldn’t believe the number and variety of guns for sale. Kelby was my safari guide for the day, explaining what guns I am seeing and what their uses are, the differences and the quality, which are overpriced and which are replicas, explaining every strange thing I encountered in this strange and foreign world. Everything from hunting rifles with beautiful wood stocks to semi-automatic weapons next to kits that can fix that. One dealer named Jerry quoted me a good price on an AR-15, complete with scope and my choice of clip – 20, 30 or 40 round, out the door for $1500. He gave me his phone number, and said he’d knock a hundred off if I came back to the show the next day to buy it. There were Glocks from World War II, and brand-new high-powered assault rifles. There were devices designed to get around the California law about the number of shells in a shotgun, and I found out which states honor Utah’s and Florida’s “Concealed Carry” permits. These folks were well-versed in what they could and couldn’t get away with, and exactly how they could skirt the existing laws. For a price, they were willing to tell you how to do it, too. Fascinating.
The thing that amazed me most was that if you wanted something, almost anything, you could find it here. It really was a bit of a one-stop shop. You could outfit your entire para-military militia here. Need boots? They’ve got ‘em. How about helmets? Uniforms, camos, flack jackets, bulletproof vests, you bet. Custom-fitted earplugs. Survival rations. Guns, ammo, black powder, empty shells (for you DIY ammo types). And manual and more manuals: how to convert guns into automatic weapons. Self-defense for the little lady. How to use artillery and mortars. Making your own survival shelter. You name it, you can find it here. Wow. Just, wow.
Yes, you heard me right when I said that I was offered a 40-clip to go with the weapon above. There were clips available for any weapon. Entire tables of extended magazines were available. Buy-Sell-Trade booths had tables thirty-feet long absolutely covered with the types of extended magazines that allowed Rep. Gifford’s shooter to continue firing into the crowd and kill/injure so many innocent people. Needless to say, the furor over the recent tragedy has not spurred our legislature to action. Is the NRA really that strong? That’s downright terrifying.
I didn’t come across anyone who was willing to sell me a gun without a background check. When I asked, “How much for a background check?” every dealer told me that the background check would be through a local dealer. Maybe they didn’t trust me asking the question. Do I look like that much of a liberal??? I’ll have to have Kelby ask next time…
And then there were the security firms and gun safes. Don’t get me wrong, if you are going to own a gun, I want you to keep it locked up. Tight. And a big, heavy-duty safe with a big-ass lock is a perfect place. I’m good with that. But in the middle of a place where every description of firearm is available, between booths filled with shotguns and ammo, semi-autos and concealed carry licensing courses, were these security firms. And every one was playing ominous music, showing videos of burglaries being stopped by their systems. They warned of home invasions, warned of the need to keep your loved ones safe.It seemed a little strange in the midst of all those guns that folks claimed were for home protection. If you’re armed to the teeth for security, why would you need a security system? And them it came to me: if everyone else has guns, if all these folks crawling all over the gun show have guns, well, damn, you’d better have a security system! Which struck me as a sad commentary on American life.
I was a little disappointed by the political aspects of the show – only a few booths had the anti-Obama, Dems-will-sell-us-down-the-river bumper stickers and signs. I have to admit, I was looking forward to much more right-wing nuttery. But the right-wing nutjob booths did it up right. “All negative Obama dollar bills 3 for $5″ (their emphasis, not mine…as if they had something positive?) stated a hand-scrawled sign. The entire arsenal of anti-Dem, pro-wingnut bumper stickers was in one booth, a bumper crop. Other booths had stickers and magnets for $1, touting the 2nd Amendment. Something for every price range, folks. But there was no one haranguing about the lilly-livered liberals. I guess they figured that everyone who would be there was of like mind.
The closest I came to catching any of that was the guy at the “Concealed Carry” permit booth, advising someone not to spend the money on a license in Nevada. “Now that we got back the Congress from the ‘libruls’, we’re gonna make all the states honor each other’s reciprocity agreements.” Meaning, Boehner and the NRA will make sure we can carry concealed weapons everywhere…No wonder we all need security systems.
By building number two, I was fascinated by all the sights and new information. By building number three, I was overwhelmed by the people walking past Hitler and KKK paraphernalia as if it was a Justin Bieber t-shirt. I needed time to process. But don’t worry, I’ll be back. A week later, I am already figuring out what I need to ask next time. Next time, I’ll ask the guys walking around with the backpacks full of guns, with signs strapped to their backs advertising what they’re selling, if a background check is necessary when I pay with cash. Next time, I’ll strike up a conversation with the RWNJ at the bumper sticker booth. Next time, I’ll ask the NRA how Obama’s gonna take away our guns. I’ll attend the gun show with loaded…questions.
Until then, fellow politicos, I’d like your suggestions on my next undercover assignment. What bastion of conservatism should I infiltrate next? I remain your humble servant, The Undercover Liberal: braving the places no liberals dare to go, bringing you the scoop on right-wing, conservative craziness.