Baby in the Gun Store

Last night*, I went to the gun store. It's newish, having appeared in the local shopping center next to the Target about six months ago. I'd been curious about it, but didn't have a reason to go, really. I own an inherited firearm, a cheap, crappy, tiny .22 with a pink plastic-inlaid handle that my mama passed on to me when she passed onto the next plane.

I wasn't raised with guns, really, unless you count the fact that about the time I was 10 or 11 years old, my mother must've visited one of the pawn shops that weren't too far from my childhood home, and purchased a gun. Then another. And a third.

I'm not sure why she felt she needed this diminutive arsenal, except that she was rather paranoid. (That's what comes of reading forests' worth of true crime pulp.) She drove around, for probably the last 25 years of her life, with a very likely loaded gun under the seat of her taupe Toyota Camry. Any attempt by me to convince her that this was dangerous folly resulted in a rant, with an irrefutable point at its center: "I can't fight anybody off!" 'Cause it was true. She couldn't. I don't know if she could shoot them accurately, either, but packing heat under the seat soothed her mind, and anything that could do that was probably worth the risk.

I've never shot this gun that I own, or any other, and my experience with shooting amounts to the time I went out to the backyard of our downtrodden suburban crackerbox house and watched my 5'2, right-wing conservative hairdresser mama fire it once into the sod, "to test it." I was both incredulous at her disregard for proper gun safety, or hell, even just not killing herself or me, and kind of amazed and amused at the same time, but the experiment worked, no one came to harm, and satisfied, she hung the gun up on the back of her closet door, in a purse she never carried.

So the idea of guns is not, to me, a completely foreign one, yet I was apprehensive about going into the gun store. To my recollection, it was my first time setting foot in one. It was Friday, so I inopportunely had my elementary school teacher shirt on, with the name of where I teach emblazoned boldly on the front, so I opted to put on a jacket from the car and zip it way up even though the spring air didn't really require it. (My diligently mischievous imagination had already supplied me with a newsroom, where the familiar voice of the local anchor was articulating "AREA TEACHER ENTERS GUN STORE IN SCHOOL ATTIRE.")

With me were my best friend and her husband, whose birthday provided us with the reason to visit the shop - he coveted a .22 rifle for fun shootin' purposes, and maybe home defense. (Any fool who enters his home was already a goner, probably; the man's a lifetime gamer and weapons collector with huge sword collection displayed a few steps from the front door.) The place looks locked up tight from the outside. It has glass doors but no other windows, so I didn't quite know what to expect on the inside. The place was well-lit, though, and still had the smell of new construction as we walked in. Up to the ceilings, the walls were paneled with corrugated steel on which neat rows of weapons were mounted: rifles, bolt action, semi-automatic, carbine, Winchester, Beretta, Bushmaster, Colt, black, gunmetal, woodgrain. Some looked familiar, something Marshal Matt Dillon might've toted, and some were chunky, unwieldy looking, rendering me unable to fathom how they would be held or used.

In my confusion, I wandered up and down the aisles, looking at other stuff they had for sale - boxes of ammo, flak jackets, 1965 military issue survival manuals - when I noted a lady coming down the other side of the aisle with a shopping cart (yep, they had those, too). Sitting at the top, secure, quiet, rosy-cheeked and happy was a smiling baby boy. Dad was browsing alongside, but keeping an eye on the baby and chatting to Mom as well.

My friend and I of course stopped, cooed, talked with the baby's mom, as we would if it were Walmart or the grocery store or the park or anyplace, but after we did, I kind of mentally stepped back. A baby in a gun store? What would the rest of the world think? But in my Texan, suburban on the edge of rural neighborhood, it's just normal. Moms and dads can have babies, then shop for guns. It's not incongruous. We wonder why the rest of the world feels safe walking around unarmed when Anders Breiviks are roaming freely.


"Love and a .45 are all you need to get through the night. One'll kill ya, one'll keep you alive, love and a .45." -- Chris Knight

(* - some night around March 11, I just got around to finishing this thing...)


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