on Apr 10 in Flotsum & Jetsam, Gallagher's Frolics, Uncategorized by

In certain spots in the South, guns are ubiquitous and since we bought our land, I’ve been advised many times to go get one. This advice appealed to me. For one thing, I’ve been told that the Sheriff out our way is at least forty-five minutes away and doesn’t make house calls unless a violent crime has already been committed. For another thing, I like rifles. Years ago, while my hormonally amped up bunkmates were sweating and panting on the soccer and lacrosse fields, I was lying on a mildewed mat squinting down the barrel of a twenty-two. I liked the relative quiet of the range, the fact that to be a marksman, I didn’t have to rely on anyone else and fantasies of being a sniper assigned to save the President from guys like Lee Harvey Oswald.

At noon today, I turned into the parking lot of Leicester Pawn shop, which was jam-packed.

The left side of the store is appliances, the right side, outdoor equipment. Dead ahead, a collection of over 500 weapons from antique pistols to black semi-automatic weapons. Standing in front of the cases are a half dozen guys with very serious expressions. Behind the counter, two or three clerks, mid to upper fifties, each talking quietly to a customer, oblivious to the crowd.

I’m aware that I don’t know what I’m doing there: whether I’m really interested in a weapon and if so, for protection, for hunting or because people have told me it’s pretty much unthinkable to live where my cabin is without one. I feel intimidated and annoyed, unable to form even in my mind a series of questions that wouldn’t betray to the clerk and the growing audience, my yankee accent, my complete lack of familiarity with weapons and hunting and my skittishness over the NRA. I’m glad to be wearing my auto mechanic shirt with the name Bart sewn in. At least I’m incognito.

The man who finally agreed to help me was named Dave. I told him I was a beginner, that I was once a good shot but my eyesight isn’t so good. I say I’m interested in target shooting and perhaps a good starter gun would be a 30.06, which my son’s father-in-law explained was a good inexpensive beginner model. He smiled and said, Bart, if you asked ten hunters, what a good weapon for someone hunting deer is you’d get five different opinions. Then as a way to pay attention to his other customers without blowing me off, he engaged several other shoppers in my dilemma, soliciting their advice on beginner’s weapons scopes, synthetic versus wood and the ease of availability and cost of ammo.

At one point, when a little guy with a scruffy beard and an NRA cap asked to see a Browning, Dave called over the owner of the pawn shop to help him. As she took the rifle off the rack, she said “the only thing Obama’s done for us so far is increase gun sales.” I think of correcting her. “No Ma’am. That’s Rush Limbaugh, the NRA and your idiot customers creating and then reacting to the rumor that Obama’s going to overturn the Second Amendment and outlaw weapons.”

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