Don't worry if you didn't get in any similar exercise; the folks at the gun show in Forest Park have you covered. Indeed, despite polls that show most Americans support at least some measure of gun control, the gun lobby has become one of America's most effective special interest groups, consistently stifling efforts that would infringe on their right to keep and bear arms.
And if Capitol Hill is the war's front lines, it's the gun shows where the home fires are kept burning. It's here that the licensed dealers (and sometimes unlicensed ones) display their hardware and buy and sell. And for the uninitiated, it's quite a display. Last week's Forest Park show was like a Yemeni desert bazaar: AK-47s, Mossberg pistol-grip shotguns, Intratecs, Walther PPKs, Taurus revolvers, German lugers, .357 Magnums, .38 Specials, Russian-made rifles, old German rifles, dummy grenades, infra-red scopes, antique weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition, ammo clips, throwing knives, brass knuckles, crossbows, pepper spray, Tasers -- oh, and swords, too. Lots of swords. The kind Forest Whittaker whipped around in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai. At the concession stand, you could buy hot dogs, Fritos, potato chips. And for 25 cents, the sign said, you could "add cheese to anything."
A grenade toss away was a dealer selling the usual array of handguns. But amid the weaponry was a neat row of Swiss-made trigger locks, at $21.99 a pop. Asked how they were selling, the dealer -- we'll call him Frank -- said, "Lousy. I had them listed for $29.99, but nobody was buying so I marked 'em down. I'll sell one to you for $19.99."
To Frank, the idea of a trigger lock makes sense if you have children. When your weapon is out of your possession, the lock keeps it from being used by anyone else. And the motion sensor means he'll be alerted if one of his children ventures too close to it.
But it turns out selling trigger locks at a gun show is akin to selling a nicotine patch to the Marlboro Man. Just a few tables away, in fact, George Hills was rallying the troops to fill out postcards addressed to Congress objecting to measures that would mandate trigger locks. "We'll mail it for you," he said.
To the anti-gun crowd, trigger locks might seem about as objectionable as wine and cheese on a Sunday afternoon. But as Hills explained it, what good is a locked handgun when you're getting carjacked?
Hills is executive director of the innocuously-titled Citizens for Safe Government, a Second Amendment group. Members don't sell any wares at the shows, just spread the word about Uncle Sam's latest efforts to stick his hands in gun owners' holsters. Piles of literature surrounded a glass box full of ones and fives -- "to offset the cost of the table," he said.
In Georgia, Hills explained, the law is still on the side of the gun owner. That's one reason, for example, why carjackings aren't a big problem here, he said.
"You don't have a problem in Atlanta, Georgia, like you do in other places. That's because the people in this state are pretty heavily armed. You've got a serious problem if you're gonna try to carjack somebody 'cause there's a good chance they'll have a pistol in their glove compartment."
Such is the reasoning of the gun owner: If we're all armed, there's less chance any of us will be victims. Bob, a 64-year-old customer, recalled reading about an African nation where every citizen is armed. He couldn't recall the name of the country but, he said, "It's the most peaceful country in the world."
America, unfortunately, is not quite up to that point yet. With every school shooting, the call for tougher gun laws grows stronger. While some, like Bob, blame it on Ritalin, others, like Hills, have other ideas.
"When you look at these mass public shootings," Hills says, "many of them are occurring in places where you have anti-gun environments, so there's no way for people to defend themselves. Like churches. You go into a church, you don't expect people to carry a gun into church. Well, I guess maybe that occurred to the guy who went and did the massacre. 'Hey, if I go into the church and massacre a bunch of people, I'll be all right.' You don't hear about many massacres at gun ranges."
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