Today I went to my local gun store (US Guns, 9063 SW Barbur Blvd.) to ask about AR-15 guns. I didn’t go in to berate, but to try to understand why a store would sell such weapons. The two young guys in the store were understandably jittery but tried to answer my questions.
ME: I’m trying to learn more about the AR-15 and why an ordinary citizen would want one. I already know that the AR does not stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle” but for ArmaLite, the company that developed it.
CLERK at US Guns: Most people use them to shoot cans and stuff.
ME: You’d have to be a very bad shot to need that kind of gun to shoot cans. I did just fine with my BB gun and my dad’s 30-06 deer hunting rifle. I didn’t need 45 rounds per minute.
CLERK #2: They are good for shooting coyotes and ground hogs because those little suckers really move fast.
ME: It seems that the AR rifles are nearly all you have here, except for the hand guns.
CLERK: Yes, they are our most popular.
ME: But surely everyone isn’t buying them to hunt coyotes, ground hogs, and tin cans.
CLERK #2: They are good for wild pigs in Texas. They’re a real problem in some parts there.
ME: But we don’t have wild pigs in Portland. Why do people in Portland buy these types of guns?
CLERK: Well, some are for protecting their families and property.
ME: Protecting them from whom?
CLERK: I don’t know, that’s just what they say.
ME: Have you ever had someone you love killed by a gun, and I don’t mean while hunting rabbits?
ME: I have. You are young, and the older you get the more likely you are to lose a loved one. Whether you think they are killed by a gun or a person you will discover they are dead. What would happen if you stopped selling AR rifles?
BOTH CLERKS: We’d be out of business.
ME: So it’s about the money.
ME: I ask you to reconsider and to stop selling these guns. Thank you.
And I left. But wait, there’s more:
As I headed to my car I was approached by a guy who was in the store and followed me out.
GUY: They are lying. They sell the guns to people to protect themselves when “they” come?
ME: Who is “they,” zombies?
GUY: Yeah, that and all the others who might try to steal your food after an earthquake or take your guns or imprison your family members.
ME: Is that something that really concerns you?
GUY: Yeah, with the way the country has been going the last 7 years. . .
ME: You mean since we got a black president?
GUY: Well, not just that but look at all the Muslims and immigrants streaming across the border to get us. I have six ARs, and plenty of ammunition.
ME: But you can only shoot one gun at a time.
GUY: But I bet I feel lots safer than you do.
ME: No, I’m not afraid of hoards of zombies, Blacks, Mexicans, or Muslims coming after me and my family. I’m more afraid of going out dancing, or to church, or the movies, or school.
GUY: Nah, those are pretty safe places.
I drove away proud that I hadn’t screamed at anyone, but just asked questions, hoping I would learn something. I did, and it made me cry a bit as I drove home.
I thought of my friend John, a husband and father, who was depressed about school and couldn’t buy beer in Utah because it was Sunday, so he bought a gun and shot himself.
I thought of my daughter, who wanted to clean the carpets but was turned away because she was wasn’t old enough to rent a Rug Doctor. But she was old enough to have bought a gun if she wanted.
There is something very wrong here and the only way it will get fixed is if we all get off our butts and do something about it. Everyone start by finding your neighborhood gun store and go in and ask questions. Challenge them a bit to think about it and to come clean with the real reasons for these guns. It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. It has to do with the money they make from paranoid people, made even more paranoid by the NRA. We all have a gun story. Tell them your story and ask them to stop selling AR guns. They probably won’t, but you will have made them think about it.