Progressive at a gun show

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of stepping out of a person’s comfort zone. Most people are such slaves to routine that they never venture out and try new things. Consequently they become biased and run the risk of becoming narrow minded. The Onion has a great shirt that says, “Stereotypes are a great time saver.” That’s a horrible (albeit funny) shirt, but how often are we given the chance to go out and bust those kind of thoughts? Because the opportunity presented itself and I like going out for random adventures I agreed to go to a gun show.

In all honesty, the gun show was a lot of fun. There were only a few times where I felt uncomfortable, but I’ll get to those later. Let’s start out with the bits I enjoyed.

  • Although there were not a lot of women in attendance, quite a few booths were run by women. And not the kind of scantily clad eye candy you see at a boat show. The women who were there were professional, could answer any question, and were busy making sales. I was rather taken aback by it actually. I was expecting the whole thing to be run by guys in camouflage with southern accents or NASCAR hats. That stuff was present too, but it wasn’t the majority. So, by attending one gun show that stereotype became busted for me.
  • I’m a bit of a history nerd. There was a small (but fascinating) collection of things for me to geek out about. One vendor had a large assortment of WWII hats, swords, medals, and other accessories. There were numerous guns from the old west and the Civil War. Beautiful pistols with engraved mother of pearl handles. Large frontier rifles with landscapes etched on them. Everything was worn and looked like the original owners had gotten plenty of use from them. I was mesmerized by some of the antiques. A couple of booths were selling old silver badges from the Wild West. For just $10 I was able to buy an authentic Pinkerton badge. (I was torn between that one and a pony express badge. The irony of a progressive owning a union-busting Pinkerton trinket was too great for me to ignore though.)
Seeing both of these things made me feel uncomfortable.

For those reasons I enjoyed myself. For a few hours I got exposed to a different world. There were historical things for me to look at and I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd. On the flipside, there were a few awkward moments.

  • Progressive, liberal, democrat, however you want to define it I was the minority there. A handful of the booths had distasteful pictures of Obama, Hillary Clinton, and anyone else they deemed the enemy. One booth even had mock hunting licenses for lawyers, socialists, and liberals. For whatever reason, seeing jokes about shooting people of my political leaning while at a gun show made me a bit nervous. Luckily that type of merchandise wasn’t widespread.
  • The other awkward moment occurred while looking at a Colt Detective Special. (the kind Humphrey Bogart carried in those pulpy detective movies) The owner came up to us and started showing it off. He seemed nice enough, until he started to explain why all the guns at the gun show had zip ties attached to them. It was a safety measure to ensure the guns weren’t loaded. Then he proceeded to elaborate how it was a stupid rule only in place to stop those “crazy anti-gun nuts” from loading weapons at gun shows in hopes that someone would get shot. Apparently if enough people got shot it would make gun shows illegal. The merchant said all of this with a straight face while looking at me, and the only thing I could think was what would he say to me if he knew I was one of those “crazy anti-gun nuts?”

That was the only eventful incident at the show. It was just walking and looking at guns, knives, and accessories. It did get me thinking about the stigma attached to gun shows though. And I did a bit of research into what the one ranting vendor had told us. There were not crazy people loading guns hoping for accidents, but a few forgetful booth operators and some unlucky shoppers who got shot while at gun shows. (Arizona, Illinois, and Florida all had similar accidents.) Regardless, it wasn’t the lie that bothered me so much as his us vs. them mentality. I feel that if I can go to a gun show for an afternoon and have a good time, that misguided merchant could grab lunch with some people who chose not to carry guns and would benefit from it. That’s really what I walked away with from the experience. Not that I’m going to start packing heat, but I’m less likely to make assumptions about gun owners. Like any other group they have a lunatic fringe, but it’s the fringe. As long as it stays that way I’d gladly go to another gun show. Besides, somewhere there is a Pony Express badge calling my name.