Paul Andersen: Fair Game
Until now, gun ownership has never been a high priority for me; in fact its been against my nature. Thats why recent efforts to exercise my Second Amendment rights have put me in a peculiar place, ideologically and politically.It began when I walked into Sports Authority in Glenwood Springs a few months ago intent on buying a gun, or rather, a firearm. There was a guy at the counter buying a big box of bullets, or rather, shells. There was another guy in Carhart coveralls chatting with the sales clerk about the lethal force of their arsenals, or rather, firepower and muzzle velocity.When I told the clerk that I wished to purchase a handgun, he shook his head solemnly. We cant sell them here. Sorry. You cant get a handgun anywhere in the valley.Are they prohibited? I asked. Not yet, quipped the Carhart guy. You have to go to Rifle.I have to go to Rifle for a pistol? I asked. Yep, they both nodded, as if imparting a bizarre and unfathomable truth.I confessed to them that I had never bought a firearm before and explained what I wanted it for. I do a lot of hiking where there are mountain lions, and Id like something that can deter or at least scare off a big cat before I become kitty litter.Both men were very helpful in suggesting what kind of handgun would best suit my needs, weighing the merits of a heavier Glock against the lightweight ease of a Smith & Wesson revolver. I didnt understand half of what they were saying. They recognized the blank look in my eyes and gave me the name of a gun shop in Rifle. I left feeling disappointed by the lack of available handguns in the Roaring Fork Valley. For the first time, I experienced a tinge of NRA umbrage over gun control, not as an ideological affront, but simply as an inconvenience.I called the gun shop in Rifle and explained to the proprietor about protecting myself from mountain lions. He offered three standard options: 1. A boat horn. 2. A can of pepper spray. 3. A gun. He began rapping off brands of pistols. But, he warned, with Obama in office, you cant touch a Glock, anywhere.The dealer recommend the Glock .40 caliber or an aluminum Smith & Wesson .357 or .38. My investment, he estimated, would be between $400 and $600. With any of these you can kill a bad guy or you can kill an elk. He then offered to enroll me in his concealed handgun permit class before they rescind it, he intoned ominously.I decided I had better do some research, so I went online to a few firearm websites. The Midwest Hunters Outlet page opened with an illustration of President Obama wearing a goofy-looking crown. The headline read: Coronation Special. Last Remaining Assault Rifles. Get Them Before Its Too Late! This urgent tone was featured on most of the websites I visited.I read an article in Market Watch that said, Gun sales have been soaring nationally over the past few months, ever since it began to look likely that Sen. Barack Obama would win the presidential election. Obama and a stronger Democratic majority in Congress are seen by many enthusiasts as more likely to impose new restrictions on firearms sales and ownership or at least to more rigorously enforce existing ones.The Rifle gun dealer was right I couldnt touch a Glock or a lightweight Smith & Wesson on any website. I called him back and got on a waiting list that has, so far, been months long. I may never get the gun I want, a Smith & Wesson 642 Airweight .38 special 5-shot revolver, and may instead have to opt for pepper spray and a boat horn.Through my research, I realized that gun sales may be one of the biggest growth areas of the American economy today, which is an alarming indicator of our national anxiety level. Americans are arming themselves in record numbers for something and I dont think its for hiking among mountain lions.
Paul Andersens column appears on Mondays.
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