By a TTAG Alumnus
At the outbreak of the Los Angeles riots of 1992, many of director John Milius’ more liberal friends called him in a panic. They knew he owned an arsenal of guns of all descriptions, and they begged him to lend them just one. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m using them.”
Milius isn’t just the writer and director of ‘Dirty Harry’ and its first sequel, or the original ‘Red Dawn’ (wolverines!) or two ‘Conan’ films, or the screenwriter for ‘Apocalypse Now.’ He’s also the real-life inspiration for ‘The Big Lebowski’s’ Walter Sobchak as well as lifelong friends with his film-school buddies Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. He also served on the Board of Directors of the NRA.
In recent weeks, at least in one small regard, I’ve begun to feel like John Milius.
Among my colleagues and friends, I don’t hide the fact that I own guns and enjoy shooting. Fellow criminal defense attorneys frequently come to me with technical questions about guns and their usage, and they occasionally ask for guidance in how to work with the ballistics and firearms experts that they retain in their cases.
A few of my lawyer friends are fellow shooters, many more are polite non-shooters, and some are openly hostile to the very idea of a citizenry with access to firearms at all.
As the pandemic has worsened, and even as I sweated through my own miserable infection and recovery, I’ve taken calls from friendly non-shooters, formerly hostile anti-gunners, and even a few foreign nationals living abroad who have all decided that they (suddenly) think the Second Amendment is a really good thing. And those who don’t have it and wish they did.
A colleague with military experience, but little firearms knowledge (grunts would call him a POG) wanted to know which handgun to buy now. He wanted to buy “a 9mm” and he was irritated to learn that my state has no cash-and-carry handgun sales unless the purchaser already has a CCW permit.
I dodged the ‘which-handgun-is-the-best’ question, and told him his best same-day purchase option would be a 12 gauge pump shotgun with a short legal-length barrel. Modern sporting rifles and semi-auto pistol caliber carbines were not on the immediate menu, because my state also imposes a waiting list for “assault rifles.”
He thanked me for the advice and dutifully drove from store to store to find himself a pump shotgun.
And then he ignored that advice and bought the only shotgun still on the shelf. It wasn’t a tactical shotgun. It was a long-barreled hunting shotgun for which the store, already picked mostly clean, had no buckshot or slugs in stock. Good Samaritan that I am, I put a few boxes of 00 buckshot on my porch for him to pick up, and told him to wash his hands after touching the boxes.
I had to maintain strict contagion control, even before it was the law, because I’ve been recovering from the coronavirus for nearly two weeks. The only thing I wanted to give my colleague (other than the advice he had ignored) was the juicy ballistic goodness of standard-velocity 00 buck.
Another old friend soon called me from Switzerland asking for gun advice. He’s a multiple-passport foreign national, a banking consultant living in a stunning three-story home in the east hills of Zurich.
He had never expressed the slightest interest in guns in the four decades of our friendship. My interest in shooting, in fact, had always been a slightly comical American anachronism to my European friend.
He had grown up behind the Iron Curtain and in the tightly-governed states of Northern Europe, not hunting in the mountains of the American West as I had. He didn’t disapprove of my hobby or my gun collection, but it was utterly foreign to his European mindset.
Not any longer. My knowledge of firearms (buttressed by my back catalog of TTAG gun reviews) instead had become a survival asset.
Living in Switzerland, he wanted to buy a 9mm SIG for himself and a smaller one for his wife. I had to talk him away from the P210 Legend, despite its incredible accuracy and reliability, because of its limited magazine size and complicated manual of arms. And because even a Swiss banker (particularly one whose business has suddenly dried up in the pandemic recession) needs to think very hard before spending nearly $5,000 to buy two pistols.
He liked the SIG P320, and so do I. But his subsequent research found some real oddities in Swiss gun laws that informed our search.
It’s very hard for non-Swiss to possess firearms in Switzerland, but my friend’s Swiss passport luckily makes that a non-issue. He also discovered that he cannot buy my Surefire weapon light/laser without a tedious and expensive special permit; laser sights are strengstens verboten in der Schweiz.
He could, however, buy a suppressor at a gun store with no more hassle than a wave of his credit card. And according to my friend, weapon-mounted flashlights are illegal in neighboring Germany…but not lasers.
European gun laws. Go figure.
My friend was about to put his money down on a P320 Compact for his wife and a P320 full-size for himself. He liked that they could both share the 17-round full-size magazines, but his purchase was put on hold when he learned something important.
If you lawfully own a ‘regulated’ firearm — their term for guns in use by the Swiss military — the Swiss government will provide you with free access to shooting ranges and free ammunition to practice with.
In a city where a latte and chocolate confection from Confiserie Sprüngli will set you back the equivalent of $25, free ammunition and range membership is nothing to sneeze at. Even for Swiss banking consultants.
Sadly, my friend told me that the P320 is not a regulated firearm, so it doesn’t qualify for the Swiss ‘free range ammo for life’ perk. The outstanding P226 is on the list, but alas it’s too large for his wife’s hands.
Thus, rather absurdly, instead of two Swiss-made SIG SAUERs he’ll probably end up buying two Austrian GLOCKs instead. No intelligent shooter should be unhappy with a GLOCK 17 and a G19, but still….
European gun laws. Go figure.
But I digress. Slightly. The real moral of the story is that crises drive changes in behavior, and the world’s current uncertainty has led many first-timers to conclude that they want to be able to protect themselves.
In guns as in religion, there are none so pious as the freshly converted. When a gun-agnostic — or especially an anti-gunner — decides that they need a firearm for self-protection, they practically jump into the river to baptize themselves. They come to us for advice. And when they want a gun, they want it yesterday.
If you choose to advise them, advise them carefully.
If you’ve got your own tales of suddenly-converted anti-gunners begging you for advice (or for guns), please share them with The Truth About Guns below.