Seeing the sights (and some triggers) at the gun show

February 1, 2013 

— I went to the recent gun show at the Travis County Exposition Center and, not surprising to some of you, I encountered lots of nuts shortly after going in.

I took a moment, surveyed the wide variety of nuts, and opted for a small bag of the cinnamon-roasted almonds. I enjoyed them as I eyeballed and eavesdropped amid tables that, to my non-gun savvy eyes, held enough firepower to arm a medium-sized nation.

This would be, ”A guy who knows nothing about guns walks into a gun show.”

Of all of America's cultural gaps, is any wider than the one separating gun fans and gun foes? Those appalled by the notion of a gun show in a county building probably would have been horrified by what they would have seen if they'd gone.

I saw table after table of menacing-looking weaponry and accessories (including a Browning manicure set). I saw stuff I can't fathom why anyone would want or need. I saw people (some with kids) who want or need the stuff.

And, overriding everything else, I'm pretty sure I saw a whole lot of law-abiding citizens exercising their rights. That it seemed strange to me is irrelevant.

”My daughter got her first rifle when she was 5,” a seller told a customer. ”Of course, we live out in the country.”

That sounded weird to the Brooklyn-born son of a CPA. But I understand that guns and hunting are positive, family-bonding experiences for some folks.

Despite having no appreciation of guns, I'm a Second Amendment supporter concerned about eroding constitutional rights of lots of law-abiders due to the actions of a handful of lawbreakers. I'm open to, but not yet convinced about, limits on the number of rounds in a magazine.

Far be it from me to orchestrate PR strategy for Second Amendment supporters, but I saw things at the gun show that might not be helpful to the cause. Blackgunstuff.com bills itself as ”Your one-stop assault shop.” Several tables offered a book called ”Arming for the Apocalypse.”

And I was distressed by toy guns at the show. I saw a kid (estimated age, 4) pulling the trigger, activating lights and sound, as he aimed a toy gun at folks near his stroller. Odds are against this kid growing up to be a homicidal maniac, but still …

The curiosities at the show included a small cannon that ”shoots golf balls one mile.” Impressive, but how's its short game?

And there was the ZGuard bedside gun mount. A myzguard.com photo of a couple enjoying the device invites us to wonder where they live and what they do when not in bed (and perhaps while in bed) that makes it wise for them to sleep with a loaded handgun attached to their bed. (Not that I want to reveal anything about myself, but I hope this is not a new anti-snoring device.)

Also at the show, I saw a sticker expressing a sentiment I hear from some gun-rights supporters: ”I love my country but fear my government.” Advice to my fellow Second Amendment supporters: Ease up on claiming you need guns to defend against our government. This is not our most appealing appeal.

We've had 11 presidents during my lifetime. Some were better than others, though I was too young to know if I liked Ike. But, and call me naive, I've never felt like my government was my enemy. I know I'm inviting emails of enlightenment, but I'm happily ignorant of where such fear comes from.

A recent Rasmussen Reports survey found 72 percent of gun owners said the Second Amendment is ”protection against tyranny.” Perhaps it is, but anyone who thinks we're approaching tyranny seems unaware that we're never more than four years away from peacefully picking a new president nor more than two years from electing all 435 members of the U.S. House.

To me, that seems like sufficient protection against tyranny. And if you really believe your government is out to get you — and if you don't have some Stealth bombers in the garage — do you really think you could out-arm the government?

This fear-of-my-government stuff is as nutty as the cinnamon-roasted almonds I enjoyed at the gun show.

Contact Herman, a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, at kherman@tatesman.com.

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