Before they come for the guns
By Claire Wolfe
"... Romanian term limits," somebody was saying as I walked into Grouchy's Gun Shop, just north of the Hardyville stoplight.
The other guys around the counter laughed, as if at a bitter joke. Then their grins -- and their talk -- chopped off as they turned to see who'd come in. "She's OK," said the glance they exchanged. I went to look at holsters and they went on as if they'd never been interrupted.
"Didja hear about this new executive order? That murdering dictator in the White House ..." one groused as I disappeared around a display rack. And it occurred to me -- not for the first time -- that this is why politicians and bureaucrats are so desperate to crush gun dealers and gun shows out of existence.
It's got less to do with "killer guns" than with talk.
Maybe they don't do it in the locked room at Cabela's, where rich folks buy $6,000 engraved shotguns, but in every gun store I've been in the last six years, this is what goes on all day. Talk. Talk about what's being taken away, and how brutally, how unlawfully. Talk about their whole culture being demonized and slowly legis-regulated out of existence -- not only "the gun culture," whatever that may be, but an entire culture of independence, individuality, and live-and-let-live.
Like 'em or hate 'em, these once-peaceful gun owners of the '90s are feeling a lot like Jews of 1939 Germany. Maligned, lied about, persecuted and threatened. Afraid, confused and angry. Very.
Of course, talk is proverbially cheap. A substitute for action, as often as not. Still ... if a revolution or a Bill of Rights underground is going to develop, it's going to happen here, in grubby little gun shops like Grouchy's.
It is happening. ...
"I was talking with Colonel Beaudoin, over at the Armory," stage-whispered one of the talkers. "He said if they ever get the order to confiscate guns, he'd warn some of us. That way we could turn over old junk and hide the good stuff for a 'rainy day.'"
"S---," snarled another. "If the government ever comes collecting guns, that's about as rainy a damn day as we're gonna get. What is this 'rainy day' BS, anyway? Do you suppose the farmers at Lexington and Concord just said, oh well, we'll let 'em take our guns now and will fight on some 'rainy day'?
"Look, if they come for the guns, we fight. Even if we can't do anything but die. That's the day. We either give up or stand up -- right then. But the truth is, I don't think they're gonna come for the guns. Not just like that."
"Yeah. They'll just regulate everything away until there's nothing left. They're already doing that, one whack at a time."
"Nothing left that's legal. But there will still be hundreds of millions of guns. They're not going to go away just because Rosie O'Donnell and Sarah Brady wish they would -- or just because politicians wave their magic laws. No more than booze or dope just went away. You know what this country's going to look like once there are hardly any legal guns anymore?"
"The South Bronx."
"Al Capone's Chicago."
"Half a million more people in prison, at least."
"Won't old Rosie like that, now?"
"But speaking of Al Capone's Chicago, if they want to make criminals of us, some people are going to be good ones."
"Yeah. For starters, most gun owners will outwit the Gestapo one way or another.
"They'll just crack down on anything we try, eventually."
"We outnumber them, though. Even if they put a half a million of us in prison, that still leaves millions of us out here."
"Yeah, but doing what?"
"Well, if they make guns illegal or impossible to get, some people are going to build their own. And the thing is, when you can go to prison for owning a .22 single-shot target pistol, why not own something bigger and meaner, instead? Did you know you can build an assault rifle or machine gun -- from scratch -- with ordinary machinist's tools?"
"Friend of mine, a gunsmith, just got a new lathe. He says he can do anything now, including that."
"And if you don't have those tools, you can still turn some kinds of .22 pistols into machine pistols, right in your own garage."
"Geez, that's crazy!"
"Look, I'm not saying anybody should do it. I'm just saying that people will do it once they can't get legal stuff. It's a fact."
"Some of those guns will be blowing up in idiots' faces!"
"Yeah, just like some people went blind from drinking wood alcohol once the government stopped 'em from getting the legal booze. Just like they die of drug overdoses because there's no quality control. What else is new?"
"But why would anybody want to build a machine gun? They aren't that effective, compared to being skilled with plain old semi-autos or bolt-actions. They found that out in Rhodesia a few years ago. Machine guns are mostly just big, noisy toys. Use up a lot of expensive ammo. And we'll have to make that for ourselves, too."
"Like I said, if you're gonna hang for being a litterer, you might as well hang for being an international jewel thief. At least you get some excitement before they stick your head in the noose. Besides, it's not just machine guns. People will go for bigger caliber stuff. Exotic stuff. More destructive stuff. Just like they went for harder booze and stronger drugs once they were illegal. Just like they went back to big old .45 ACP once the Feinstein magazine ban made 9-mill less useful.
"It's not a recommendation. It's just history. Reality.
"And another thing. Don't you suppose those guys who're getting their cocaine shipments around the world will be happy to add another line of merchandise to the inventory? Stick some pistols in with the white powder. Even the government admits 90 percent gets through -- so you can bet even more than that does."
"Oh, man. We're gonna have cartel wars between Glock and Colt!"
"Something like that. Between whoever replaces them on the black market, anyway. But whatever happens, guns aren't going to go away. They're just going to get more dangerous, every which way -- for the people who own 'em, the people who shoot 'em, and the people getting shot at."
"Then what's Rosie gonna be screaming for, I wonder?"
"Longer sentences. Death penalty for 'gun traffickers.' Then death penalty for 'possession.' House-to-house sweeps. Visits from your friendly, local SWAT team."
For a moment, there was a silence. Then someone said, flatly, "We're still going to have to fight. In the end."
"Lay in a stock of military manuals, guys. And start readin.'"
"Yeah, ain't it interesting that the biggest supplier of subversive literature in the world isn't really Paladin Press or Loompanics or Delta? It's the U.S. gummint. Teach you how to do everything from set booby traps to sabotage communications."
"Man, I don't want to get into any of this stuff! I just want to be left alone."
"You might not have that choice, someday. The gun-banners are setting up unintended consequences that everybody's going to have to live with. They just don't understand that the only way to get rid of guns is to murder a few million gun owners. And after that, they'll have to murder all other people who get mad about the police state they created in the process -- and those guys will have found guns to fight with, somehow. I, for one, am gonna stand up and kick butt a long time before it goes anywhere near that far.
"I'll play criminal games as long as I have to. But someday, it's gonna be Lexington time all over again. And there's a few million of us out here who not only feel that way but have the experience -- Thank you, Vietnam; Thank you, Korea, World War II, Desert Storm and all Bill Clinton's little wars -- to know how to do it. And when you're talking guerrilla tactics, you don't need big numbers on your side."
"When, though? How do we know?"
"If they come for the guns, for sure. When they burn the next church full of babies. Maybe. If they declare martial law. Maybe. I don't know. Maybe there won't be any one time, but a whole lot of little incidents over the years, leading up to something big. I just know we'd better be ready. Maybe it's even good that we don't know exactly when. Because that means they never know how far they can push us before we push back -- hard."
At that point I came around the counter and the guys changed the subject. It's not that they suddenly realized I was overhearing. They knew all along there was a writer lurking.
No, they'd just said all they had to say. For the moment.
"Hey, Claire," one said, "you really stirred up a fuss with last week's Rosie O'D column."
"Well, freedom lovers did. It seems we swamped Rosie's Web servers that morning and sent so many protests to Kmart that they took two of their e-mail addresses out of service. Most of the credit goes to other people."
"You said you were going to write about armed confrontation this week. I tell you, that Joseph Farah's a good guy, but he's never gonna let you write about that."
"Oh, he might," I said. "If I handle it carefully."
"Well, in that case," said one of the guys who, like the rest, shall remain nameless, "You just tell that Rosie O'Donnell something for us. We don't want trouble and we aren't gonna start any. Leave us alone and we'll leave you alone. But you can tell Rosie and all her fans -- including Chuck Schumer and Orrin Hatch and Larry Craig and Dianne Feinstein -- that when they send their goons after our guns, Hardyville will be waiting for them."
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