Monday, March 30, 2009

My First Gun Show (What I Did Last Weekend)

For whatever reason – my New York City Jewish heritage? my upbringing in a liberal college town? – guns have just never been a part of my life. I shot a few BB guns at camp in Kentucky when I was a kid. I know a few people who hunt. But most of what I know about guns and gun culture comes from what could pretty objectively be called the liberal magazines I read and websites I frequent. So, when I saw an ad in the paper last week for a gun show in Manassas, Virginia, half an hour from where I live, I figured, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Virginia, go to a gun show.

I thought I’d broaden my horizons a bit, but what I really, secretly wanted was to whip out my little video camera go rock some good Michael Moore action on my unwitting subjects. (see video below) I thought maybe I’d meet some real frothing-at-the-mouth, militia peddling nut jobs talking about the government slipping brainwashing drugs in the water supply, capture it all on video and put together an exposé so outrageous that no one would believe my stories until they watched the footage.

So I paid my six dollar entrance fee and walked past the hot dog vendor and into a not very big, slightly run down fairground building, ready to be morbidly shocked and appalled. But, alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. My maiden gun show turned out not to be all that crazy. In fact, if you replaced the military fatigues with North Face jackets, the ammo boxes with sleeves of Titleist Pro V1s and the sniper rifles with pitching wedges, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and any one of the golf expos I used to frequent. In both places, most of what you hear is people talking obsessively about the mind-numbingly dull minutiae of some product. Whether it’s club head speed or recoil, if it’s not your bag, it’s just not that interesting.

Also, it turns out I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to trapping people into exposing their lunatic, anti-social tendencies in front of my probing video camera. Whatever you think about Michael Moore, you have to admit the guy’s got some balls. I ended up just sneaking my camera out a few times and taking some quick shots of the room, hoping nobody would notice (nobody did). This place was full of guns, after all. Probably best not to cause a scene.

I saw a few things that were a little nutty. A sign at the entrance noted that no loaded or concealed weapons were allowed. But then, of course, guns and ammo were being sold at every table, and a booth in the back was selling “The Ultimate Conceal Carry Holster.” Was this meant to be ironic? Maybe just good business. Like, if you want to have a loaded, concealed weapon inside the pavilion, you at least have to spend some cash. Speaking of which, guns are not cheap. Most of the regular-looking handguns were in the $500 to $750 range, and one of those Rambo-ass fully automatic sniper-looking things would set you back over two grand. I still can’t quite fathom what an upstanding, law abiding citizen would do with one of those things. It would be hard to have one of those in your hands and pull off the “I’m just a good ol’ hunter boy who learned to shoot from my dead grand papi” story with a straight face. Anyway, the crowd at the show was not what you’d call particularly affluent looking. And so, at the very least, I think most of the folks there would probably have to save up for a while before taking one of those babies home.

There was some pretty rich literature for sale. A whole assortment of books on protecting yourself in the event of a school / office / chain-restaurant-where-you’re-just-trying-to-enjoy-your-unlimited-bread-sticks shooting. A few pretty paranoid kinds of titles like “The Policeman is Your Friend and Other Lies.” Some things that were just weird, like “Sneak It Through: Smuggling Made Easier” and “Drink as Much as You Want and Live Longer” (not sure what this one has to do with guns, but I’d be interested in learning about that in any case). And a lot of books focusing on various levels of off-the-grid living. I learned a few good tips from some of the selections in this last category. Like figuring out what kind of RV would be best for my needs. And that mainstream society frowns upon gaps in your resume, which I know personally to be one hundred percent correct from several HR-types who almost died of ecstasy when they “exposed” the missing one year in my work history (my brief career at the bagel store). I realized that some of the gun nuts’ conspiracy theories are not all that different than my own. Mostly just a difference of opinion as to who we think The Man is. They seem to think it’s the government; I think it’s big corporations. You say tomato; I say tomato (how do you write that?).

So, all things told, my first gun show was a bit disappointing. The folks I encountered were, sadly, pretty ho hum looking. Maybe if I had worked a little harder, dug a little deeper, I would have exposed some of the wingnuts I was sure would be lurking around there. Maybe I exude such profound yuppiedom that, like what Eddie Murphy suspected when he dressed up as Mr. White, people knew not to say anything juicy to me. Or maybe I’ve got a ways to go to become the muckraker I aspire to be.

Here's the video:

1 comment:

mediaslinger said...

what happened to the faces? i've wussed out too with audio recordings. i've found though, that if you just do it, most people actually don't care. i agree about playing it safe at the gun show, though. and by the way, i think it's spelled "toemaytoe - toemahtoe."

p.s. - the secret captcha code i had to type in to post this comment was "armen." no joke.