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September 26, 2009

glock23ah1BUYING A HAND GUN 1-21-09
Guns don’t kill people…9 times out of 10 it’s the bullets
After a horrible shooting of a bartender a few doors down from my house and then a shooting outside my bar less than a week later, this time it was the bad guy getting killed, I decided it was time to arm myself. I didn’t grow up around guns or handle them much so they make me feel a little uncomfortable which is one reason I’ve wavered on this decision for years. Back in my “punk rock, let the bands figure out my political views” days I was more opposed to guns. I thought I could be the one who never got scared and gave in, if I didn’t have a gun other people would eventually get the idea and not have them either. This is of course a naïve way of thinking. If no one had guns great! That would probably end a lot of problems we face in our country but the reality, as I realized today, is that it’s really easy to get a gun, even for the bad guys. The next set back arose when I found out how much handguns cost, on average $500 for the type that would suit my purposes best. I know for home protection shotguns are more effective and cheaper but I don’t feel unsafe at home, although maybe I should, I feel unsafe closing a bar at 4am alone. After two people getting killed in my general area where I live and work, one proving the merit of carrying a weapon, I thought I could go without a few other things for the next week and put some money aside for this purchase. I have gone to the gun range in the last few months and shot a few different types of firearms in the past, read a little on line and had found a few guns that I thought would compliment my needs and lifestyle. I talked to a few ex military friends who carry guns and bounced some ideas off them. As I found there are a few different categories of gun owners; people who want to get a handgun for home protection, competition shooting enthusiasts, and people who want to carry it concealed. There are of course hybrids of all of these. I think I fit most into the concealmeant category with a bit of the home security category as well. I decided that this would be the day. After a friend told me about a place that sold used police officers guns I traveled to Smyrna GA, home of the Glock handgun, which coincidentally was one of the brands in the running for what I was going to purchase. Buying guns in the city isn’t that easy, they’re mostly sold at pawnshops and I’d assume not in as good a condition as at a store that specializes in guns. Also why not go to where everyone has guns, they are of course the experts.

I walked in and immediately felt out of place. I’m fairly confident in many different situations but this definitely didn’t feel comfortable or welcoming to the outsider. I was just having this discussion with a coworker yesterday about going to the gym, how I feel like everybody’s looking at me like “what is that weakling doing, has no one ever showed him how to lift weights before?” No, they haven’t and neither has anyone ever taught me how to blend in at a gun store. But I’m not going to be intimidated by these guys who may or may not have been of the same blood lines as the kids that used to beat me up in high school and try to run me over on my skateboard with their big trucks, I’m an adult now and we all have different things we’re good at, mine just happens not to be hunting or fishing. I headed straight past the registers and employees all carrying side arms and look around to try to guess who’s truck it was outside that had duct tape and plastic in place of windows and walk right up to the cases that house the thousands of different handguns sold in this establishment. I walked with purpose and tried to ignore all the things that made me feel self-conscious about the fit of this place and me.
I never want to come off like I know what I’m talking about in these situations but I also don’t want to get jerked around by a salesman. I stepped up to the kid who looked to be about my age, past the old man complaining to the clerk how Obama was going to try to take away our guns, he seemed the most approachable with his shaved head and big ears that stuck out, the only thing that made him not seem so easy to talk to was how he gently rested his right hand on the gun strapped to his hip. This I’m sure is something you forget could seem threatening when you work in a gun store and are surrounded by weapons all the time so I forgave him of this careless gesture. I explained to him why I wanted a gun and how I was a bartender who felt a little unsafe leaving late at night. He talked about the shooting at the standard and I explained how I live behind it. He looked at me in disbelief and asked “what have you been waiting for?” I didn’t really know how to answer that to someone who couldn’t’ possibly fathom why you wouldn’t carry a gun. Gun enthusiasts are a different breed of people unlike the people I’m used to who want no one to be into the stuff they’re into rendering them unique. Gun people are the opposite they want everyone to carry a gun and be into guns. They make you feel inferior for not having an immense knowledge of ballistics and not because they want to make you feel inferior like an indie rocker talking about the hottest new underground post modern ironic dub band that they’re crossing their fingers hoping they’re the first to hear so they can make you feel stupid for not being into it yet, they are genuinely and innocently confused by the fact that everyone doesn’t love guns as much as they do.
My guide through this ménage of weaponry pulled out a .45 to show me and told me what great “stopping power” it has, this is a term they use a lot in the gun biz and is synonomis with “killability”. I told him I thought a .45 was a little bigger than I wanted to go and he asked in a condescending tone “well have you ever shot one?” Luckily this was one that I could proudly answer “yes”. I told him the price range I was looking and he showed me a used police issue Glock 23 .40caliber. I’ve shot this gun before, out the back of my friend Ned’s truck in rural Pennsylvania, it’s great for shooting signs on winding back roads so I guess it would do just fine. He sold me by telling me it was a police sergeant’s gun and just sat in a desk for a while and was taken care of well. The fact that it was cheaper than I was looking to spend helped convince me as well. I’d read all about gun fit on the internet but forgot all about it when I’d picked one. I felt strange holding it in my hand as if I were shooting it even though it didn’t have a clip in it and the ammo was on the other side of the store, I thought I’d inadvertently do something taboo among gun enthusiasts and get shot by one of the ever vigilant store clerks. I began to feel a little more comfortable after I’d made my decision and remembered some of the questions I wanted to ask. I asked about concealed carry permits and what you can do without one since it takes about 3 months to get one right now in Atlanta. He told me “if I were you I’d just carry it anyway, it’s easier to get out of the courtroom than it is to get out of the morgue” I’m sure the staff here was full of clever quips like this. He told me about the two schools of thought on open carrying. If someone sees you with a gun some think they might not mess with you, others, including himself, think that they might just shoot you right away to avoid the hassle of you possibly shooting them. He also, no matter how many times I corrected him, kept referring to my neighborhood as a “really bad neighborhood”. I live in grant park and work in east Atlanta! They aren’t really crime free but are some of the nicer Atlanta neighborhoods. Isn’t more of a case of bad things happening everywhere. We don’t have to label some neighborhoods good or bad.
He then gave me the paper to fill out for a background check. It wasn’t very in depth, probably less so than a change of address form at the post office. I filled it all out and he followed me to the register with the firearm I was about to purchase. It happened so quickly and easily that I didn’t have time to second guess myself, one hurdle to jump and I may have abandoned the whole mission. I was wondering as I walked to the register when they were going to tell me to wait as they did a background check. I made my purchase and as the cashier entered the information I had inscribed on the form into his computer I had my last pangs of doubt, but it was too late now. The 2 minute background check came back clean of course and I exited the building as the rest of the people here entered…armed.

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