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It’s hard for those of us stranded in flyover country to fully grok the anti-gun, pro-disarmament POV popular among citizens inhabiting the left and right coasts. But putting ourselves in a gun control advocate’s shoes is a useful endeavor—if only to plot better ways to counter the antis’ arguments. In her piece for GQGuns ‘R Us—writer Jeanne Marie Laskas [above] reverses the process. She embarked on an anthropological expedition into the wilds of Yuma, Arizona to see what this great American “gun love” is all about . . .

Laskas is no stranger to being a stranger in a strange land. Her new book, Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extroardinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work, comes out next week. So Laskas knows how to dress (and maybe even talk!) in places where lunch isn’t considered a competitive sport.

In her excursion on GQ’s nickel, Laska ventured to the Copper State “to listen to the conversation the rest of America was apparently having” about guns in the wake of high-profile  shootings. Without any apparent irony, Laskas wonders “If an armed citizenry is a piece of our national identity, how is it that I’d never even met it?”

How is it that the east coast media culture (Laska’s a former WaPo columnist and Contributing Editor at Esquire) doesn’t know it’s disconnected from the rest of the country? That’s meta-confusing.

Anyway, Laskas found a gun store willing to let her hang. She spent quality time with the folks who own, operate and patronize Sprague’s Sports, observing the indigenous fauna as they prowled the gun counters and ranges.

Despite actual contact with honest-to-God gun owners and buyers, Laskas found it difficult to tamp down years of carefully cultivated northeast corridor parochialism and anti-gun cultural baggage.

“I’m kind of surprised you carry assault rifles,” I said to Ron. “There’s no such thing as an assault rifle,” he said. “These are ‘military-style rifles’ or ‘modern sporting rifles.’ ” “But they’re assault rifles,” I noted. I knew that much from TV. “Assault is one of the worst things the media has ever done to us,” he said. “Have any of these rifles ever assaulted anyone?”

From the perspective of the limited circles in which Laskas runs—she’s a creative writing professor at the University of Pittsburgh—guns in general and modern sporting rifles in particular are something only “those damn people” think they need.

Nobody in my circle back east had guns, nobody wanted them, and if anybody talked about them, it was in cartoon terms: Guns are bad things owned by bad people who want to do bad things. About the only time the people where I come from thought about guns was when something terrible happened. A lunatic sprays into a crowd and we have the same conversation we always have: those damn guns and those damn people who insist on having them.

Just a guess, but it looks like Jeanne’s not a regular TTAG reader. Especially our DGU coverage. Still, props. During Laska’s stint in the borderland area gun store she bought herself an M&P 15-22 and a Glock 19.

She could barely contain her horror and revulsion, though, when a customer complimented her on her rifle choice, telling her that he’d just bought the same gun for his six-year-old. Ultimately, the conversations with all the exotic gun people and their anti-gun control beliefs were a little too much for Laskas.

In the end, I went over to the indoor range to blow off some steam and to release my mind from the endless loop of stupid-scary.

Funny thing about getting to know firearms and the law-abiding, patriotic Americans who choose to own them: their gun culture tends to rub off. In Laskas’ case, her research may have — may have — made her reconsider her bias. A little.

I kept thinking about neighbors. You have this crazy family living next door. One day you go over with a pie, figuring if you just confronted the crazy, you’d understand it and find acceptance. Then you discover that all this time they think you’re the crazy family. The more you try to explain yourself, the crazier you sound, and if you stay long enough, you probably will be. These were burdensome thoughts, and I wanted to get rid of them. I rented an Uzi, fully automatic. I chose the male zombie. I think he was supposed to be a lawyer. He had a briefcase. I aimed for his left eyeball and pulled the trigger. The patter of thirty-two bullets lasted maybe three seconds, and then the eyeball was gone. The release felt like one gorgeous, fantastic sneeze, and the satisfaction reminded me of cold beer.

Next time go for center mass Jeanne. But at least you hit the target.

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  1. i don’t care who you are, a burst out of a full auto brings a smile to your face. and at least this lady is open minded enough to try a gun.

    • Many moons ago when I was in SOI (School Of Infantry) in the Marine Corps we got our hands on the M249 SAW for the first time. When our instructor was going through how to operate the weapon he described it to us as “boner inducing.”
      I’m not going to go into detail, but I’m not going to say he was wrong. Firing a fully automatic firearm is something every person should try at least once.

        • Ah, memories. Don’t forget the Ma Deuce! Great fun, especially if Uncle Sugar was paying for the ammo. Helped make up for the not so fun things you had to do along with the fun stuff.

    • That’s why it’s nicknamed ‘the giggle switch’.

      ps to Dan- she was shooting at a Zombie. While I doubt she was aware of the details, headshots are correct in that situation.

  2. “During her time in the borderland area store, she bought herself an M&P 15-22 and a Glock 19.”
    Um, how, exactly? Is she a resident of Arizona?

    • Non-residents of Arizona can “cash and carry” the rifle, the gun shop was going to ship the Glock to a FFL dealer in Pennsylvania, where she lives.

      • Ah. The rifle I figured out. I was just wondering about the pistol, as I figured her for a New Yorker. My mistake.

  3. I have spent a fair amount of time at Spragues, and it is a pretty good place for her to become aquainted with the gun culture. I think she has been infected. She has swallowed the blue pill… and she cannot go back to the matrix.

    • “She has swallowed the blue pill… and she cannot go back to the matrix.”

      Um, the blue pill is the one that sends you back into The Matrix.

  4. Just finished all 5 pages of the article…..

    With the exception that she still continued to use the word “assault”, I felt it was a pretty well written article.

  5. “I knew that much from TV”…

    Well, we ALL know if it’s on the news it must be accurate… Just like stuff on the interweb!

    My French model girlfriend told me so.

  6. .It seems the sniveling weasel media is ramping up it’s pre-propaganda campaign for the expected Obama Landslide Victory and the ensuing Common Sense Gun Confiscation Act.
    Now this woman can proclaim that she is a concerned gun owner and that no-one else should have the guns she owns as they very nearly murdered her as soon as she got them home

  7. Don’t discount all creative writers. I’ve had a few literary pieces published and some genre fiction as well. And I’m a college English instructor. Gasp! Those of us in the gun culture need to get past the view that only people in red states belong. I’ll welcome anyone–gay or straight, vegan or carnivore, Democrat or Republican, magazine writer or steel worker–who sees gun rights as a fundamental American value.

    • So then you know Many other Professors, Educators and Teachers that share your beliefs that MY civil rights are bestowed by God and are non-circumscribable?

      • Right, aren’t you doing exactly what you say the gun-grabbers are trying to do to us by saying Professors, Educators and Teachers are trying to take your civil rights? And, where is it written that the Bill of Rights are bestowed by God. In my reading of the constitution it says they were written “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its (the Constitution) powers”.

        • Your quote is not from the Constitution. The Bill of Rights do not confer rights–they prevent the government for intruding on unalienable rights that people already hold which were “endowed by their Creator.”

        • Just because a mortal states that something is endowed by our creator does not automatically make it so.

      • The God question here is beside the point. You are correct to observe that many of my colleagues do not believe in gun rights, but not all. There are some on our side of the issue. My point was that as long as you’re a good citizen, I’m glad to have you in the gun culture. We don’t have the luxury of throwing away anyone who supports our position.

  8. She’s all done. That M&P15-22 is great fun.

    If all of these articles were written by folks open-minded enough to give shooting a try, we’d have a whole lot less to complain about.

  9. Unseen you say? HIDDEN???? Say what?? Hell, Lady, they ain’t ‘unseen’ to all the rest of us…… But it’s good that some get out of their ivory towers, get a little cow shit on their boots, or get stuck in quicksand, to find out what the real world is all about.

  10. I thought the article was well written, engaging, and readable, and even if I disagree with some of Ms. Laskas’s positions (or her internal thoughts-to-herself) I think she did a fine job capturing the diametrically opposite point-of-view held by many citizens in this country when it comes to gun ownership, need, crime prevention, and the Second Amendment. The fact that she went to AZ, worked in a gun store, bought two firearms, and shot at a range is a far better effort than many journalists have made concerning this same topic. Will she convince people on either side to see and respect the other’s point-of-view? I doubt it (but I think GQ got its money’s worth from this writer.)

    • Agreed. It sounds like she spent quite a bit of time there (at least several days worth) while working on the piece. Much better than a 30 minute visit I was expecting.

  11. Believe me this woman will be a featured speaker at the 2016 DNC Convention spouting about Common Sense Gun Control

  12. Everyone knows you don’t stop a zombie by shooting center mass. You have to make headshots with zombies.

  13. Nobody in my circle back east had guns, nobody wanted them, and if anybody talked about them, it was in cartoon terms

    Yes, that’s what happens when you live in a cartoon.

    At any rate, at least she gave it a shot (pun intended). That’s more than most hand-wringers can say.

  14. Now if we could only get the entire staff at MSNBC to attempt to gain insight into the world of alcoholics, meth heads, and coke whores.

  15. Well I would consider this a C+ paper.
    Here is my reasoning why.

    She gets an A+ for effort here. She went to stay at a gun store for a few days. Hung out with the owner/customers, and also looked at the environment that surrounds it. Honestly most hoplophobes wouldn’t get within a hundred yards of a gun store for fear of being plugged full of holes!

    I give her a C+ because she could come right out and say guns are bad. Sure she alluded to the gun culture and some gun owners in a negative light, and even poked fun at our sporting rifles. Yes by the way you can get an AR in Hello Kitty! As a creative writer she is allowed to do this, however her semi thesis statement starts off with an anti gun stance which by the end you seem a bit befuddled. I mean she wound up buying not one, but two guns.

    “In America these days, it seems like everyone is packing heat. In fact, we’re the most heavily armed populace on the planet. So where do most of us go when we need a shiny new Glock or a convenient AK-47?” Actually no we aren’t. At least if you use the term armed as in CCW or OC. That would probably fall to Israel. I am not sure why she feels that an AK-47 is convenient, but a true Automatic Kalashnikov Model 47 is not easy to come by. A semi automatic version is however easier to get, assuming you don’t live in California, or some other area which hates scary looking guns!

    What makes this confusing is that instead of tired old rhetoric like most would use she actually includes things that those of us who are pro 2nd amendment would agree with. Things like “You depend on the government to protect you,” said a middle-aged woman dry-firing a Ruger. She was admiring the smooth trigger action and regretting her clunkier Glock. “We depend on ourselves.”

    This statement is one we attend to all the time. It is our responsibility to be the first responders in situations. From Spree shooters to your kids falling and breaking his leg at a park. We are the first responders.

    She recognizes that outside of the islands of NYC or other places, guns are part of life. They are in fact “normal”. They are not good or bad, just present. they are a tool like a garden hoe or a table saw. Both can be used for good and bad, but they are just there.

    Despite her inner feelings in the end she simply goes out and actually shoots an assault gun, an Uzi, to blow off steam. She also uses to misguided terms like Assault Rifle, which is highly regulated if allowed at all.

    She comes home a gun owner. For better or worse she has taken an unabashed look at how others live. She still seems to think that things are a bit scary at times, but to quote Obi Wan Kenobi “you’ve taken your first step into a larger world”.

    She also keeps talking about the crazy family next door. I am still a little confused about that. sure we may call some antis crazy, but those are the ones that simply bury their head in the sand and scream “nah nah nah nah, I can’t hear you!” She at least tried to understand, although I think she would be a good person to interview here. I mean that honestly. Many of us live in or near an island of anti gun emotion. So how do we deal with it?

    Also she gets an A for calling the Barret a work of art. 🙂

    • “She also keeps talking about the crazy family next door.”

      I think in her article, this is a good reference to how polarized the sides can be on certain issues, and how each side ends up calling each other “crazy” without trying to understand where the other person is coming from. Anti-gun folks call us “crazy” just as we call everyone who doesn’t believe in the 2A “crazy”.

      The truth is that while there is a certain on any side of an issue that is diehard, “crazy”, most folks are open-minded enough that if you are reasonable with them, if you present that with good evidence and valid experiences, their opinions can be changed.

      Anyone who advocates 2A rights needs to understand that our rights are more secure when we win allies from all backgrounds – Republican or Democrat, man or woman, Christian or Atheist or (blank), White or Black or Hispanic or Asian, etc… if gunowners default into labeling everybody who doesn’t own a firearm another “GUNGRABBER”, we don’t do ourselves any favors.

      • I honestly don’t find gun grabbers to be “crazy”. I just find the subject of their fear, and they are in fear, to be misplaced on an inanimate object.

        It’s rational, I guess, to think that “well, I can’t control crazy people, but if there aren’t guns to use….” except we all know that it’s impossible and illogical to assume removing weapons from law abiding citizens somehow unarms the criminals.

        • Exactly. That’s when we have to step in and drive the proverbial Mack truck through the whole in their logic that if all guns were to suddenly disappear in the world, crime would cease.

  16. She may well be a Creative Writer especialy in that she is creating “Facts” to support her narrative, but she is poseing as a Journalist when she includes “Facts” and needs to be addressed in that vein. Ergo she is just another lying anti-gunner following Saul Alynsky’s credo, to wit: “You must pretend to be part of the Middle Class to destroy it.”
    Somebody check with the gun store to see if everything she says she did actually happened.

  17. It does present one great danger of leaving our “rights” to the democratic process: why the hell should someone who lives in a gun controlled utopia like NYC or Chicago and who has never seen a gun outside of movies be able to vote on or even have an opinion on guns? Why should someone who has never gotten their loafers dirty be able to have a say on why people don’t “need” guns?

  18. This article reinforces a thought ive had since leaving Chicago for the United States of America.

    Fundamentally, when you strip away the politics and the cultural aspects we are left with two different nations forced to co-exist as one. The philosophy of one nation believes the government has the duty to ensure the welfare of the collective by any moral means necessary, with the moral aspect subject to situational judgement. If the collective good benefits from subjugation of the individual then such subjugation is supported. As such, gun rights in this country fall under the category of a privilege restricted for the emotional security of the collective.

    We then face the philosophy of another nation, which believes in the principles outlined by the Constitution instead of laboring to eliminate them as colonial restrictions.The individual takes precedence over the collective and the government, thus defending the rights of the individual takes priority over the perceived good of a collective.

    While both countries are united under one flag today, I cannot help but wonder how long that will last.

    • My thoughts exactly. We have two mutually exclusive philosophies as to the type of country we want to be. Either there will be a winner and a loser, or we will remain paralyzed by the constant shift from one theory to the other.

      Personally, I think the issue would be resolved by a return to strict federalism which would allow everyone to choose with their feet. The only other solution is secession.

      I don’t see our current crop of politicians as having the balls to do either.

  19. Quite proud that she took out her aggression on a zombie, we’ll need more like her even if she won’t admit it when the apocalypse happens at the end of the year. A head shot on a zombie is exactly what’s called for, if you go for center mass you’ll just end up with this:

  20. I grew up on the east coast and was a police officer at the age of 20. That in it self does not make me an expert however the constitution of the United States allows gun ownership for a reason that reason is to allow the people to never again be rules by a tireny government.
    I have lived in California and find it shocking that people are willing to step around a homeless person in order to make sure there dog is not late for there therapy session. I must admit we all have our differences however being a free nation one is allowed to be free to makers there own decisions. It is these freedoms that allows up to post here today.

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