Like many of us, my love is prone to periods of obsession. He recently went through a massive dirt bike phase. During this particular phase, he spent hours online looking at dirt bikes for sale on craigslist. He procured the phone numbers for people in town who owned dirt bikes, people he did not know. He called them, introduced himself and asked their advice about buying one.
Eventually, he bought a dirt bike. Because of his research, he felt that he bought THE dirt bike for him. He also bought a myriad of protective gear. He rode the bike a lot. In fact, he rode it until he broke his thumb. Once he is healed, I’m sure he’ll be riding it again.
J took his dirt bike with us during our time in the Southwest this winter. Some days, he would ride for hundreds of miles. I would write on my laptop in the camper, trail run or roll my yoga mat onto the desert floor to practice and meditate. We camped on national forest land. We didn’t see too many people, mostly hunters or other off-roaders out for the weekend.
As time went on, J became increasingly worried about leaving me alone in the camper, until, one day, he came home with a small shotgun.
I was, and still am, unsure about how I feel about using a gun for protection. I grew up in rural Ohio, so guns are not a mystery to me. I have fired off several types of guns for recreation, but have not handled one in years. I currently spend a lot of time trying to grow my compassion and sense of ahimsa, or non-harm. Shooting a gun doesn’t really fit into all of that.
What began as an interest in personal protection sprouted into a full blown obsession for J. Soon he was reading websites written by and for “preppers.” Preppers are people who are preparing for the end of the world, or the zombie apocalypse or whatever one might call it when resources are scarce and shit hits the fan. Preppers express themselves in many ways. The main emphasis seems to be to become self-sufficient, so a typical prepper is interested in topics such as learning to garden, do-it-yourself sutures and assault rifles.
J’s interest in prepping prompted him to invite me to the Loveland Gun Show. This is not a place I expected to find myself, nor is it my idea of a good “date day.” However, I thought it might be interesting, and J really wanted to check it out.
As we pulled into the parking lot, I drove past a skinny man with a mustache, aviators and a camo jacket holding some sort of assault rifle. Spotting this man created an expression on my face that stayed with me for most of the gun show. It looked like this:
I stopped by a booth that featured several handguns and rifles. I picked up an inexpensive Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun.
“That’s the perfect gun for a woman your size,” the younger man of the two men hosting the both said. He was in his early 50’s with brown eyes, grey hair and a round belly that jutted through his suspenders and over his jeans.
“Oh, I don’t really know much about guns,” I replied.
“Well, Smith & Wesson is a good brand, and that price point is right in the sweet spot for most folks purchasing their first handgun. I see your left-handed. This gun works for you because it doesn’t have a safety. Most guns in the $400-$600 range have a safety made only for right-handers.”
“Yeah, that’s the one for you, darling,” the older man running the booth interjected. This guy appeared to be in his late 60s, thin with sparse white hair and blue eyes that were clouded with what I would guess to be either whiskey or a plethora of prescription pills.
“Um, I am not sure I need a gun, especially one without a safety,” I replied as I softly put the gun back on the table.
“That’s the kind the army uses, honey. Most of the time the safety just gets in the way. If you are in an emergency, you need to react quick, and a safety may cause the split second difference that means life or death,” the older man fired back.
“He’s right, you know. Most people who get killed during a home invasion do so because they are messing with the safety instead of firing the gun,” the younger man replied.
“Seems like most of the guns on the table have safeties,” I mumbled, taken aback by the strong tones in their voices. I felt threatened, and, honestly, most of the guns on the table did have safeties.
“Now listen here. A lot of people are scared of guns, but that is because they don’t know how to use them. You think back to when you were a little girl. When your mama first brought out the vacuum, I’m sure you were scared to turn it on. You might have thought it could hurt you, or even kill you. Maybe for you it was the blender, or the washing machine. I’ll bet you aren’t scared of any of those things now because you know how to use them” the younger man said.
I didn’t really know what to say here. I actually don’t spend a lot of time vacuuming. If I had a gun, I might actually spend more time firing it off than firing up the Kirby. Part of me wanted to laugh, because I knew I was getting the sales pitch designed for “the lil’ lady,” part of me wanted to open a business and sell guns to women because this market must be a grossly underserved and part of me just wanted to run away.
“Grocery store closes for three days. That’s when the killing starts,” the older man said.
Now my face looked like this:
In the end, after a stunned silence, I just walked away, all of the way away to my car. I still don’t know how I feel about this ordeal. Before I picked up that 9 mm, I hadn’t seriously considered purchasing a gun. Now that I know that people like that guy are stockpiling them, I might do the same.
In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt: The only thing to fear is fear itself. Well, that, and maybe that old dude.