Last Saturday, Jimmy and I dropped off Daniel at MIL’s house and went with my stepfather to the gun show being held at the fairgrounds.
The truth is that we own guns.
Rest assured, we’ve followed all the requirements and are properly permitted. We take gun safety very seriously and have a gun safe that was selected after much research. It’s weird how shy I am to tell anyone we own guns. Gun ownership has become taboo, even in the South where I live.
I didn’t grow up with guns although I grew up around them. My parents didn’t own guns, but one uncle is a police officer and another hunted. Target practice was a common sound on a Saturday afternoon. Extended family had lifetime rights to hunt on our property, and it wasn’t unusual to have friends and family share deer meat with us. Jimmy grew up in the suburbs, and it was he who wanted to get a gun. We own more than one. We’re well prepared if the zombie apocalypse happens.
The gun show (technically the gun and knife show) is held 4 times a year, but I had never been before. Jimmy had attended the previous one and after hearing about what he saw, I thought it would be fun to go. Kind of like anthropological field work.
Overall the gun show was both less dramatic than I expected but still surprising. At times it reminded me of a flea market. Vendors were hawking jewelry, t-shirts, coins, homemade jerky and camouflage in addition to the guns and knives I expected. Music was blaring. Survivalists had several tables of MREs as well as water purification devices. One vendor was selling hand-made baby clothes. As you might expect, there was a strong patriotic flavor, with signs proclaiming “Made in the USA” above stalls. One table displayed a Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi flag for sale.
The people were diverse as well. I saw a variety of ethnicities and races, and I definitely wasn’t the only woman there. Vendors were appealing to women by selling pink guns and accessories (gag). The show appeared to be a family affair with children and babies in tow. One woman carried a Coach purse.
It was bizarre, yet completely mundane at the same time.
I was disturbed by only 2 things I saw.
I had joked with Jimmy beforehand that I wanted to wear a shirt saying, “I voted for Obama and I support the 2nd Amendment. I’m your worst nightmare,” but he told me it wouldn’t be a good idea. And he was right. First of all, there was a clear assumption that if you were at the show, you were conservative, Christian and pro-life. This was literally displayed on t-shirts for sale along with other sayings like “I’ve got the Bible and the Constitution and that’s all I need” and “if you want to take my gun, you better bring yours with you.” There was also a booth heavily promoting the 2nd Amendment and all the threats to it. I really, really, really wanted to go over there and talk to them, but I wasn’t there to stir up trouble, so I swallowed my arguments and walked by. Surely we can’t be the only left-leaning citizens who support the 2nd Amendment. Is it ridiculous to think that it might be possible to have representation at the show from the left as well? It brought home how polarized the electorate has become on issues like gun control and religion.
Those things were interesting but about what I expected. There was a table along the back wall that had bumper stickers with sayings that ranged from the patriotic to the insulting and downright scary about President Obama, public school, the government, etc. I stared at them for a long time, shocked to see such vitriol in print, in public. That people I knew or worked with might buy them, might believe them and display them proudly on their cars. Maybe I’m more naive than I thought.
The other disturbing thing was the preponderance of Nazi memorabilia. There were 2 or 3 tables selling flags, including the swastika flag. That was jarring. But by far the worst was the table with a full display of Nazi military items. I’m not certain if it was meant as some sort of military history display because it was next to items from the Vietnam war as well as guns from other countries. In addition to a German helmet, gun, and pictures there was a yellow felt Star of David with “Jude” on it, and a skeletal hand holding a dagger aimed at the star. Next to it was a paper with this quote attributed to Hitler on it:
“This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!”
Umm. Put the quote together with the other items, and I was nauseous. I’m assuming a human being wore that star and likely died with it. It was grotesque. My conclusion was that the people behind the display supported not only the 2nd Amendment but also looked to Hitler as a role model. Maybe that’s a stretch, but what else am I supposed to think? It turns out the quote is falsely attributed to Hitler but is commonly found at gun shows. I wanted to ask the men behind the display about it and what point they were trying to make, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to hear that they supported such a vile regime or found anything admirable in a man who was responsible for the deaths and sufferings of millions. I don’t want to believe that there are people like that in my city, in my state. Maybe even in my neighborhood.
What I learned at the gun show is that I need to worry about the people along the fringes.