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 GQ—Guns ‘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.