Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Gun Show, at First Glance

How can a couple better spend a cold, gray, winter, Saturday morning in the mountains than by going to a gun show? Apparently not just this one couple, but everyone else in the Salt Lake and surrounding counties.

My husband is a gun collector. There. I said it. And as much as I am terrified of guns, and I was programmed from early on that “guns kill people”, not “people kill people”, I married him nonetheless. I am slowly, very slowly starting to work with this fear and with this taboo. I was brought up to think (and see on TV) that only bad people have guns and use them. You never see a movie about tame, little, "normal" families with guns in the house where tragedy doesn’t strike! Usually, in our mainstream pop culture, where there is a gun, there is trouble.

I have met, in the past years, and mostly up here in the mountains, folks that own guns, and shoot at targets, others that collect them just as a hobby, and others that shoot them to kill Bambi. But all of these folks are nice, friendly, well balanced people, that keep a regular day job, marry, have amazing kids, and cook amazing Thanksgiving feasts. And so far, tragedy never struck. And so far, when we meet for dinner with them, guns are put away. They are used responsibly, only when it’s appropriate and with much careful safety. So, my “gun culture”, or … preconceived notions have started to shake a bit.

Anyway, this was his umpmillionth gun show and my first. When we married, he always doubted that I would ever go to a show with him. But sitting at my computer on Friday and pondering on the show announcement, I figured: enough is enough! I know that life needs to be lived, not watched from a distance, and I do live, it seems, in the middle of gun country (when we go camping or hiking, everyone seems to carry a gun, dress in camo and watch, with the barrel pointed and ready, for something to jump out of a bush), so I decided I need to at least know more, see more of these random folks in their natural habitat, browsing in this huge hall in search for their own next favorite hobby.

The show was not as “scary” as I thought it would be, nor as my husband thought it would be for me. Again, most folks looked “normal” – whatever you define by that word. Some came with kids, even.

Yes, there were a couple of individuals that looked rugged, unclean, unshaven, and made me think “wow! Sure, ALL you need in your falling apart trailer in the middle of nowhere, amongst thousands of empty bottles of booze IS a gun! Sure, you do! *shiver*”; but for the most part, I felt safe and much like any other show I have been to at an event center.

The show looked to me much like a car show, but instead of cars, every “dealer” had handguns and rifles. Lots and lots of them. Some were there to show old, antique pieces, some were selling new things. Unlike cars, where the newer they are the bigger they are, in guns, it seemed to me the newer they were, the smaller they were.

I even thought some of them were “cute”… Being the ever shallow visual person that I am, the craftsmanship of most of them is what attracted me: the huge, wooden rifles, showing off the beauty of the wood, and the small, stainless steal, “lady” handguns. But sorry, no pictures allowed, so I have no proof of this.

Some of the dealers in the show looked a bit tight and serious. Just lonely people, somewhat self absorbed, maybe just being focused and careful around their merchandise. But most of them were much as any other salesman: friendly, chatty, full of laughs that they shared generously.

All the guns were “safety locked” (I guess that’s the term?!), so you could touch, but … could not accidentally shoot anyone. I am still asking my husband for details on how a purchase is possible, how the guns are registered, and the folks who own them. It’s a pretty bureaucratic process, full of red tape, and yet … pretty much widely available anywhere in The States.

The place was packed! I was shocked to see much more people at the gun show (which was more expensive to get in) than the home decorating show which was being held next door.

The show also had other items beside guns: they had gun parts, for any repairs you might need to make on your arsenal, or for guns you wanna build yourself. They had antique furniture and books, they had houseware stuff, like china, crystal and bed linens. Even jewelry. There were merchants with samples of home made sauces, breads and even beef jerky- yum!

At one table, I picked up on a metallic, purple (of course) and black handgun. It just stood out from all the others, as it looked new, shiny and coquette. I even picked it up, which usually gives me the willies! The gentleman selling it, said “You like the purple one? I know! They even make them purple AND pink (and he pointed at the other two pink guns he had on the table). And you have no idea how many purple and pink guns I have sold, either! Tons of them! Amazing to me how many people wanna accessorize when they’re trying to kill ya!” – and laughed loudly.

I put the gun back down. He was a nice, jolly fellow, but the willies came back at that remark.

Yeah, I am not ready to shoot yet, for sure! Somewhere in the back of my mind, guns still kill people. I am more interested in knowing the people that own the guns now, and I wanna be in the know about how they work, and what makes them powerful (I know, gunpowder, right?!), but it won’t be my next new hobby any time soon.

I feel like a huge threshold has been passed, though! Just like a long time ago, I would not be caught dead in a room alone with a dog, I never liked to be anywhere in the same proximity with a gun. Loaded or not. Humans or not around it. I am starting to face that fear, and at least tolerate them in my presence. It’s a long road, but … the first baby step has been made. And it feels incredibly freeing.

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