Well… I went to my first ever gun show last weekend in Winston Salem, North Carolina, USA. As part of the south, the gun laws are more lax than in other states (NC recently legalized carrying guns in public parks, for example). At the same time, you need a permit to buy a handgun (not a rifle though) and you need to take a class before being granted a conceal and carry permit. So, there is some control but it seems more like red tape than actually controlling anything. Anyways, I was excited to see what it was all about. (Please excuse the photos, I took them with my phone.)
For starters, the paranoia over the second amendment being revoked seems entirely unfounded. There were two groups of people at the gun show: 2nd amendment buffs (of which there were around 1.5k) and protestors (of which there were about 7). I don’t think many folks out there want a total repeal of the second amendment (the right to bear arms, fyi) but after seeing some of the SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) at the gun show I may agree with a minimization of what people can buy on the open market. And here’s why:
1) Without more comprehensive background checks how can we ensure that the people owning these ridiculously powerful and advanced weapons are sane enough to use them responsibly? What does a responsible person do with a SAM? It is in all of our best interest not to have lunatics with rocket propelled missiles, SAMS or even heavy caliber machine guns. I wouldn’t want to encounter an angry mentally challenged person with a box cutter– let alone an arsenal of crazy shit only useful in an actual all-out war. These weapons are not designed to protect your home, your rights or your possessions–they are designed for wars of attrition.
That being said, I think that if the background check process were cleaner, more efficient and had more defined criteria I may be more prone to consider the options. As it stands now, we’re looking at a criminal history report were felonies prohibit some rights. What about all the other signs of instability? I’m open to hearing ideas on how to make a fair background check process but not open to the idea of allowing anyone who wants one to have an arsenal of military-grade equipment in their basement. Case and point: at the gun show in WS, NC I was accosted by a man of questionable mental status who clearly did not understand normal social boundaries. He grabbed both of my arms and stood inches from my body and proceeded to ask if I was married, to whom, and if I’d consider a divorce. The man was obviously not all there. What was he doing at a gun show? I’d be scared to meet this kind of man in the parking lot alone if he were armed and I wasn’t. I don’t think the solution is an ever-escalating arms race between the sane and the deranged wherein I’d be safe in that same parking lot if I were also armed, quick to draw and had a high enough caliber weapon to ensure I was safe. That just seems silly.
I think one point in that defense is sufficient. Moving on…
I was impressed, to some degree, by the amount of expertise on the ground. I met one young man (under 30) who was offering detailed information on a replica revolver from 1880. He was fascinated and grew more animated as he talked. He knew when I walked up I couldn’t afford the revolver but just wanted to share in his excitement about that piece of history. I really enjoyed that, and the other antique or replica items on site. Some of these people are real patriots with a deep sense of history, and I admire that greatly. That, to me, was worth the ridiculous $9 admission fee.
Outside the show there were a few protestors (see crappy cell-phone image below as photos were discouraged at the show). I admire the protestors and their belief that standing out in the sun for hours on end with signs will have an impact. They are preaching to the wrong crowd, but at least they are preaching. I loved the dichotomy of the gun show folks vs the protestors and how peacefully it was all transacted.
All in all, I probably won’t be a gun show attendee in the long run, but it was quite an experience. My favorite part of the day was when a man with a rifle that looked like something out of CounterStrike came up to me to tell me I didn’t have the right to take photos. Ha! The second is strong with that one, but other freedoms–not so much.
WHAT A fantastic closing line. May the ultimate ironies never escape us.
To be able to buy SAM’s, automatic machine guns, and RPGs, you have to get a NFA License from the ATF, which involves more extensive background checks. But I do find it funny that the guy came up to tell you that you don’t have the right to take photos…