The world has gone completely mad, but then again, most of you out there already knew that. True story.
Many years ago, two men tried to assault me outside my own front door, here in San Jose. I was new to the US at the time and had no idea why these two thugs would do such a thing and was taken aback by the ferocity of their intentions, baseball bats in hand, and without an iota of care for the fact it was in broad daylight. A brazen attack indeed, and fortunately one that I walked away from, shaken, but not stirred. I received no physical damage, but psychologically, I was in tatters. My first reaction, after calling the police, was to move. This was not an ideal situation, only because I had just purchased the house where this unfortunate incident had taken place, but certainly one that I considered for nights and nights, as I lay awake waiting for their return. The Cops eventually caught the two perpetrators, so that made my situation a little more tolerable, but in the aftermath of being challenged outside my own front door, the thing that I really wanted to do, was go out and buy a gun. It sounds silly now, but at the time, it seemed the most sensible thing to do. After all, I had read about how easy it was to get a gun here in America, so why not just go out and buy one? “Go on, make my day” that wonderful line from the Dirty Harry movies, ran in circles around my bruised and battered ego, so, with Clint in mind, one fine afternoon, with nothing much else to do, I thumbed through the Yellow Pages, and found the closest shop to my house that sold guns. And this, my friends, is exactly how it went down. I would just like to add, that baring in mind how anti gun I was, and still am, and due to the fact that I cannot stand any thought of violence, be it premeditated or indeed factual, this was a huge deal for me. To actually walk into the gun shop, took an almighty act of courage on my part, only because I had sworn since I’d been a kid, that this would never happen. I honestly believed that guns were revolting and unnecessary, unless you happened to be in a war. Well, to me, this was now a war, and one I intended to win.
As I sat outside the gun store, my heart rate increased and sweat ran down my brow. “What if they refused to serve me” I wondered? Then, on a wing and a prayer, I got out of my car and with my best alter ego intact, I walked right in like I owned the place. I felt like a criminal, I felt like Pussy from the Soprano’s and I felt like I had a point to prove, all at the same time as being shit scared and clueless on how I would explain my new, if not sudden urge, to purchase a pistol that could enable me to shoot up my neighborhood, place of work and local watering hole, any time I dare wish.
“Yes sir, can I help you? Came the question from across the glass counter, by a man who looked like he should have been a model for Redneck Weekly, with his long shaggy grey beard and his checked shirt, hanging outside his ripped jeans, his belt, as big as any Mohammad Ali had won in the ring, and his cigarette, bring aimlessly in an ashtray that lay right in front of his nicotine stained fingernails. The shop itself was a cornucopia of madness and killing machinery. With guns hanging from every available inch of wall space, and every corner of every drawer. There were bullets, neatly boxed, in every shape and size, lined up in rows, next to rifles that looked as long as tree trunks. I noticed head mufflers, targets, holsters, and so many other items that all read ‘war zone’, scattered amongst the three employees who all looked like they were ready for a battle to break out at any given minute of any given day.
“I want to buy a gun” I replied, and as I did, I realized how stupid that must have sounded.
Well that reply kind of sent my mind into a spin. I hadn’t figured on being asked that question. This was, after all, the USA, and in the USA, every man had the right to bare arms, correct? So why would this Redneck look-alike be asking me such a stupid question?
“Why not?” I suggested.
“Do you own a license?”
With a frown, his hand vanished beneath his counter and he pulled out a book”
“Go home, read this book, and come back in a week and then you can take a test, which, by the way, will cost you $20, and after you pass that test, we can discuss how and what you should buy”
“I need to take a test?”
“Everyone does, SIR!” He was being quite obnoxious now.
“OK” I said, as I took the book from his hand, and with my ego, my passion and my bravado, tucked firmly beneath my embarrassed head, I left the store and went right back into the front seat of my car, whilst looking around nonchalantly, just in case they were following me with a double barreled shot-gun, ready to blast me into the middle of whatever boat I looked like I’d just walked off!
I sat down, deflated, in the front seat of my car, my mind, running through all the possibilities that could take place should these two scum-bag muggers decide to return to the scene of their crime, namely, my front door, and beat the crap out of poor defenseless me, now gunless and sitting scorned and somewhat angry whilst contemplating an immediate future without bullets! I opened to book and started to flick through it. For those of you who do not own a gun, let me explain. This book is a 60 page explanation of how to own a gun, how to behave when owning a gun and the do’s and don’ts of operating said weapon. It’s poorly illustrated, it has 10 chapters and it’s vocabulary is geared up to a reader with an average reading age of about 8. At the end of each chapter there is a three-line summation od that chapter, so, anyone with any iota of common sense, can go straight to the end of each chapter, read the summation, and then be fully educated and informed as to the rights and wrongs, without actually readying the book in full. Well duh!
So there I sat, for at least 6 minutes, studying the last three sentences of each chapter, until satisfied I could pass the test. And then the fun began. I walked right back into the store. The man behind the counter looked somewhat flummoxed and surprised, after all, he’d just informed me to go away for a week to read his book, and here I was, some ten minutes, at the most, later, coming back into his store, bravado now in tact, ready and very willing to sit the test, which he’d so eloquently informed me would cost $20 and needed serious study time before I could even think about passing.
“I’m ready” I offered, as I threw the book down in front of his face.
Surprised, though not deterred, he looked me in the eyes, “I told you, you need a week, and you have to study,” he paused, “but… it’s your money, $20 bucks please and sit down over there” And he pointed to an empty corner at the other side of his small store.
The test was in the form of a multiple choice paper, and no word of a lie, and also, with the three ‘stooges’ who worked in the store, snickering in the background, within three minutes I had completed the test and been graded with a score of 100%. I believe even a monkey would have received a score in excess of 95%. The test was ridiculously simple, so much so, that I could have passed it with my eyes closed, and holding a pen that spouted invisible ink. How stupid did the American government believe it’s citizens were? Simple answer, VERY! The man looked at me for more than one minute with such an accusatory grin, suggesting from the smile showing between his missing teeth, that I might have cheated.
“Problem?” I asked.
“What gun would you like?” he wasn’t grinning any longer, and the thought of making money was now very obvious in his smoke filled eyes.
I looked around the store for about two minutes, and then on the glass covered shelves that stood in front of me, all offering anything from a 9mm Baretta, to an Uzi submachine gun. It was simple really, I wanted to look like Bond, James Bond, well that was what I kept telling myself, so I pointed to the second shelf down and simply said, “that one please”
“How do you know you want that one?” he asked. “You need to try some and at least hold them to get a feel for the weight”
I repeated myself, this time, more forcefully. “That one” I said, as I pointed again. It was $250 and it was a Smith and Wesson 9mm black lugar. It looked like something you’d see in a movie, and so, because I had no intention of ever holding it, shooting it, or even cleaning it, it seemed to me to be a perfect choice. This was a deterrent, I kept reminding myself, and not a weapon of mass destruction. Mr. Redneck had no choice. “Come back in 3 weeks and we will have it ready for you”, he muttered under his frustrated breath.
“Yes, we need to complete a background check and make sure you are who you say you are”
I had no choice. For the next three weeks I would be unarmed, just as I had been for the previous 40 years, only this time, I knew, that my weapon of choice awaited patiently, subject to a background search, of course. But what would they ever find on me that would prevent this sale from taking place? The answer was, nothing, and three weeks later, accompanied by my new sense of superiority, I re-entered that gun shop, bought the gun, head mufflers, targets, and enough bullets to begin world war three, all for less than $500, in my opinion, a bargain, should my two assailants ever decide to return to the scene of their proposed crime. I was chuffed to bits, I was fired up, (literally), I was in the mood to feel safe, and I was headed home, gun safely in it’s new padlocked box, never to be opened, but to lie in wait, just in case! How simple was that? I can tell you all, it was a lot simpler than opening a checking account at my local bank, a fact that has been bothering me ever since that day, nearly 20 years ago. With all the shootings and killings over the past decade, and especially with everything that happened this past weekend in NY, the facts are very plain and simple, to open a bank account takes more effort and more background check up’s than to buy a gun. I will reveal all in my next blog on Thursday.