A Redcoat in Patriotland: A Brit Visits the 2013 NRA Convention

A gun-dumb Brit's journey into the heart of American gun culture.

A Redcoat in Patriotland: A Brit Visits the 2013 NRA Convention

The AR-15 is lighter than I expected.

It's an intimidating chunk of rough-hewn black metal and rubber, but it sits softly in my hands. I bring it to my shoulder and, making sure I'm not pointing it at anyone, I peer down its sights. I'm not sure what to do, so I start to copy the man next to me, a big bearded guy with his baseball cap turned backward. He's turning the rifle around, upside down and side to side, to admire what I assume is some facet of the workmanship.

I perform a similar inspection, but I have no idea what I'm looking at. It's definitely a gun. It appears to mean business. There's a place where the magazine goes; I recognize that much from the movies. I can see where the bullets come out. After that I'm lost.

A young girl looked pretty comfortable holding a rifle, which is more than can be said for the author.
photo by Eric Sauceda
A young girl looked pretty comfortable holding a rifle, which is more than can be said for the author.
A family peruses one of the convention's many gun displays dotted throughout the sprawling Houston convention center.
photo by Eric Sauceda
A family peruses one of the convention's many gun displays dotted throughout the sprawling Houston convention center.
A massive gun safe made even NFL tight end Dallas Clark look tiny.
photo by Eric Sauceda
A massive gun safe made even NFL tight end Dallas Clark look tiny.
"After the Sandy Hook massacre," a teary Glenn Beck told the crowd, "the government went in, seized the opportunity [and] exploited these families."
photo by Eric Sauceda
"After the Sandy Hook massacre," a teary Glenn Beck told the crowd, "the government went in, seized the opportunity [and] exploited these families."
Ted Nugent titled his speech "Freedom Is Not Free." Luckily the cookies in the press room were.
photo by Eric Sauceda
Ted Nugent titled his speech "Freedom Is Not Free." Luckily the cookies in the press room were.

People swarm around Backward Hat and me as we perform this ritual inspection, thousands of people on their way from one gun to another, families on day trips, herds of young men in combat shorts that bulge under the weight of concealed carries and gun-company promo materials.

"It's not so bad, is it? How does it feel?" Fred, my gun Sherpa, has a glint in his eye. He thought we should get the big one out the way, so we're standing at the Bushmaster display, in the middle of the NRA Annual Conference in Houston.

"The one that the liberals hate," Fred says, barely concealing his contempt. He's draped in a freshly pressed suit, face clean-shaven and hair freshly cut. He might work for something called AmmoLand.com, as his press pass announces, but Fred wouldn't look out of place slickly anchoring a nightly newscast. "They've got a real hard-on for this gun. It's just a gun."

"I kind of like how it feels in my hand," I tell him, lying. The gun's entirely deactivated. It can't even be switched to "fire" from the safe position. A thin yellow cable prevents anyone from holding the trigger down, and there's a gaping hole where the magazine should be. But despite all these clearly necessary precautions for displaying a semiautomatic rifle in a place containing tens of thousands of people, my palms are slick with anxiety. I need to leave. Now.

"Put it up to your shoulder when you look down the sights," Fred says, grinning. "Take your finger off the trigger. That just shows people you've never held a gun before."

The far end of the rifle does fit snugly on my shoulder, but I still can't get comfortable. The model of gun that was used in the Sandy Hook killings and divided my new country is perched on my shoulder, and I can't keep my finger off the trigger.
_____________________

It doesn't seem that long since I moved from Cardiff, Wales, to suburban Dallas, but it's been two years now — two years of bemusement at tank-sized pickups, non-ironic cowboy hats and differences in language, part of my never-ending quest to clumsily discover every British word that doesn't apply here. And of course, there's the difference in gun culture.

Before that AR-15, the first gun I ever held was an American friend's handgun, which I quickly handed back, half-paralyzed by some vague but very real fear. Before that — before I moved here for my wife's job — the closest I'd come to seeing a real gun was those arcade shooters, with their plastic cartoonish guns and their imaginary lasers.

As you may have read on your most liberal friend's Facebook page, there are basically no guns in the United Kingdom, and basically no gun violence. In 1996, after a school shooting, the U.K. moved to ban or monitor every gun in the country. You can get hunting rifles on a five-year renewable license, but it will require references. There's a central database of gun owners. The whole place is basically one long Glenn Beck nightmare, right down to our strangely logical name for "soccer."

Given this backdrop, I was drawn to Houston by the chance to shed some light on Americans' fondness for guns — more than a third of households have one, although that number is falling — and to talk British to some serious Americans. Plus, as much as guns scare me, I was fairly certain I wouldn't get shot. "Journalist shot by NRA member" would be tough to spin, even for the guys who spin school shootings.

I arrive at the George R. Brown Convention Center on a Friday afternoon, the air and the mood outside heavy. The center is an industrial-looking monstrosity, outfitted, temporarily I assume, with 30-foot NRA badges, as if the building itself has been deputized. The closer I get, the more slogan-blaring T-shirts invade my sight lines, some funny ("Reduce noise pollution! Use a silencer!"), some gross (see previous parentheses). Protesters dot the sidewalk. Some are pro-gun folks wielding placards depicting Obama with a crudely stenciled Hitler mustache. The others are anti-gun, largely in pastels for some reason, muttering things incomprehensible toward an uncaring convention center.

I move inside and am hit immediately by a flash of bright yellow bursting from a huddle of noise and movement, heralding something called the Wall of Guns. It's not a wall. Several gigantic wooden cabinets are filled with everything from camouflage shotguns to revolvers to assault rifles I recognize from Goldeneye (the Nintendo 64 classic, not the film).

People swirl around the cases, their faces alive with desire. I manage to piece together from the booming P.A. that there's a raffle happening. Tickets cost $20; when 100 are sold, the owner of the winning ticket gets to pick a weapon from the Not-a-Wall of Guns.

"You just hand them out to the winners?" I ask the man selling tickets. "There's no checking?" Checking for what, I'm not sure; it just seems like there should be checking involved.

His eyes go wide.

"Oh no, no, of course we don't."

He describes the process, which basically involves the gun of your choice being sent to your local gun retailer for you to pick up. I imagine what this process would look like back home, should some budding entrepreneur decide to register GunLottery.co.uk. Even the right-wing press would denounce him as dangerous. He'd be living on the streets within days.

"So you're selling these guns for $2,000, essentially," I tell the ticket man, and he laughs. This place is a real money spinner. There's a wheel of fortune, the winner of which takes home a really big knife. And the raffle lasts all weekend. They've already given away 50 or 60 guns, he says.

"How many do you think you'll sell?" I ask.

"Depends on how many tickets we sell. Want to buy a ticket?"

I don't.

"Can you just straight out buy a gun from the wall?" I ask him.

"Well, if you've got $2,000."
_____________________

The press room is tucked into the upper corner of the convention center, a sterile gray room with neon lighting and three flat-screens. There are good points and bad points.

Good point: It's got free cookies. Bad point: It's otherwise no different from the convention floor.

I thought it might be a quiet place to jot down some totally not-judgmental observations about Sarah Palin's shouting, but there she is on all the TVs, prattling on in Alaskan about her hunting prowess. I briefly consider switching the channel to football, but something about the scene — the press Wi-Fi password is "standandfight," and my fellow media members are largely from outlets like blackmanwithagun.com or the Philadelphia Gun Blog — tells me there probably aren't a lot of Watford FC fans here.

I flee, cookie in hand, under the watchful gaze of a man in a black T-shirt that says "SECOND AMENDMENT: AMERICA'S ORIGINAL HOME SECURITY." I go back down the escalator and get my first glimpse of the conference hall. I pause a moment to take it in and to finish my cookie. That's when it hits me: I should have taken two.

It also hits me that this place is gigantic. You have to admire the architect who decided that Houston needed something bigger than the starship Enterprise for convention-holding. It feels like the far ends of the hall are shrouded in mist, and that I must trek through the night to make it to whatever brushed-steel obscurities it holds.

The center is rammed to capacity, like Cardiff City Centre on a Friday night but with way more guns and way less beer. I let the tide carry me out into the sea of cloaked armament. There are no metal detectors, and it's kind of assumed that most everyone has a gun. I'm not sure if that makes me feel more or less safe, but I certainly can't get it out of my mind. I brush past a guy in combat shorts and feel his handgun brush against my leg. I briefly long for the Tube at rush hour, where the things that brush against you only leave a rash.

There are guns everywhere, of course, but it's more a shrine to general survival implements: handguns, rifles, assault weapons, silencers, scopes, entire stalls of antique coins for some reason, clothing, endless ways to conceal a weapon, knives, throwing stars, stuffed animals, targets, holiday packages, humongous gun safes that you could live inside if you were small and resourceful, and my favorite stall, the one I'm looking at now.

It's called Zombie Industries. It's a large corner stand with variously attired but universally bloodied zombie torsos, displayed prominently above the polo-shirted workers below. The "director of sales," Nicholas Iannitti, flits around underneath, happily talking about his creations, which retail for around $100 apiece. They're targets to use on a range; that much is obvious. What makes them special is that they bleed when you shoot them.

"Our best seller is Chris," Iannitti says, pointing toward a gray-hued zombie high on the wall.

"Any idea why?"

"None at all," Iannitti says. "We're equally proud of all our creations."

The other zombies are either green-skinned or silly caricatures, like the zombie with a Bin Laden beard and a turban simply called "Terrorist," or a garish clown with an evil grimace.

"Why do they all bleed red?" In all the films and computer games I've seen, zombies bleed black or green.

"We tried out a lot of colors — yellow, green, black — and in the end red was just the easiest to see down range."

"Anyway," Iannitti adds brusquely, as he considers more deeply why someone with such a silly accent is asking such silly questions. "How do any of us know what color a zombie's meant to bleed? I certainly don't."

I wander off, pushing aimlessly down rows and between booths. After some perambulation during which I observe every rifle ever imagined, some swords, an ax and a VW Campervan with a chain gun on top, I decide to make my exit for the evening. But just as I'm ready to leave, I'm swept back in by the sight of a man's dream dying.

He's standing in a booth with machetes and swords and spears, basically all the weapons you're left with in video games when the real pixel-killers are out of ammo. He's wearing a ten-gallon hat, and his face has a gray and white handlebar mustache so fulsome it could shelter an entire family. He is purchasing what I think, from my extended playing of Soul Calibur II, is a halberd.

The weapon — a giant medieval ax, basically — is on display as one glorious piece. But this clerk! This clerk separates it and hands it to him in two pieces, with the business end tucked safely into a bag. The man looks confused, then crestfallen. As resigned to his fate as a man with a mustache and weapon that size can be, he walks out of the hall, head down. His hope, it seems, was to gaily parade his killing implement throughout downtown Houston, past the ranks of police outside and past the baseball game going on at Minute Maid Park. Or maybe in the baseball game, to put the Astros out of their misery? We'll never know. His dream, like so many, was crushed by the laws of the nanny state, and he's heading home. I'm not far behind.
_____________________

It's Saturday morning and I'm back, ready for another day of occurrences I don't understand conducted by people who don't understand me. (My accent's still thick enough that it takes at least three tries to order "water" in restaurants.) As I make my way, I notice several new road closures. Police are in the intersections, directing people and cars alike. After a few minutes' walk, it becomes apparent what the fuss is about:

There's a Cinco De Mayo parade, and it's heading straight for the NRA convention.

It's an explosion of color against the gray Houston landscape. A float is decked out in green and red streamers. Up and down the street, Hispanic families wave at the extravagantly dressed populace on slow-rolling display. I'm just waking up, so I'm slow to piece together the wonderful dissonance happening before my eyes, but eventually it hits me. I spend the rest of the walk imagining the committee that plotted this route, presumably late at night and after a few drinks too many, a decision made of either ignorance or mirth. I'm rooting for mirth.

The main float turns away at the last minute, and despite some confused looks from NRA badge-wearers, the powder keg of racial hilarity is defused. One man, neat white beard prominent under his sunglasses, shouts something at the float, but it's drowned out by the kind of fast-paced Spanish-language song you hear in one of those scene-setting shots in a film set in Mexico.

I pass more protesters — today Obama is a "puppet of the British government," which gives us a level of respect I never even knew we had — and soon I am back on the packed convention floor. I skim around the side of the stalls, following a loud crackling noise I could hear yesterday above all of the aural chaos. Eventually I find the source: a stall selling "personal defense equipment." Mainly this means stun guns of extraordinary strength, which flash intimidatingly and emit a noise like the electric fence from Jurassic Park.

I approach one of the sales guys, who's handing out stun guns to people without looking at them. I ask him what their best seller is.

"Definitely the flashlight taser," he says. "It's got a flashlight at one end and the taser at the other."

Logical enough. How many volts would that carry?

"About two million. It'll incapacitate an attacker for 10 to 15 minutes."

"That's a pretty long time. It must be some serious equipment."

"It really is," he says. He picks one up and presses a button, and a deafening burst of electricity fills the air. "It's the perfect non-lethal defense."

There's a guy next to me, can't be more than 20, swishing one around and grinning. He's about a foot away. This feels considerably less safe than standing around a bunch of assault rifles.

"What's this?" I ask the salesman. I'm pointing at something that looks like a phone case.

"It's a taser iPhone case."

I probably should have expected that. It's a miracle of engineering, really, a normal-looking pink iPhone cover with a flip-off top concealing a stun gun. I picture the epic battles my phone and I have as I try to wrest it from my pocket while driving and listening to the superior music of my homeland. I imagine the consequences of throwing the best part of a million volts into that mix.

"Six hundred and fifty thousand volts," the salesman says proudly, "and 20 hours additional battery life!"

Would be pretty useful if someone tried to steal your phone, I guess. They'd never see that coming.
_____________________

I retreat upstairs to the press room to restock my reportorial supplies (read: more cookies), passing the Not-a-Wall of Guns, the P.A. still blaring, "WAAAAAAAA­AAAALL OF GUUUUUUUUUNS!" It's here that I end up sitting next to the media arm of AmmoLand.com.

Aside from the AR-15 they want so badly for me to hold, my Sherpas up the Mount Everest of guns are useful for something else: getting people to talk to me. My media badge and accent are a left-right combo of untrustworthiness for most people I approach. But at the Ruger stand, our first port of call after the Bushmaster display, I'm having the safety features of a Ruger SR45 demonstrated to me when a guy starts waxing lyrical about the safety of this particular gun.

"Best gun I ever bought," he says without prompting. "I got kids, and none of them are gonna be able to fire this. It's got a double trigger for safety!"

He motions for me to tilt the gun and look at the trigger, which my finger is wrapped snugly around, much to Fred's dismay. Sure enough it has a second trigger in the middle, raised up from the first. Two triggers! I'm not sure what this means, exactly, but I assume it shoots two bullets at once, possibly in different directions so I can kill two bad guys at the same time.

I sense my opportunity to get a gun enthusiast to open up, surrounded as I am by the only media he can trust. I strike with all the subtlety of an untrained Brit brandishing a Ruger.

"What did you think of the recent gun-control reform bill?" I ask. We're just a few weeks removed from the disintegration of the president's plan for universal background checks.

"Ain't gonna change nothing," he says. "None of that crap would have stopped anything happening. You know, they interviewed guys in jail who went there 'cause of gun crimes. Less than 2 percent got their gun legally. Obama needs to try and help the good guys."

"How are the bad guys getting their guns?" I ask, earnestly.

"I could go to any high school in Houston and get any gun I wanted. I just got to know the right people. It's easy."

I sense the mood starting to turn. My Sherpas have to leave — AmmoLand isn't going to populate itself, I guess — so I offer my goodbyes. Popping outside for air, I see the anti-gun protestors stationed across the road in front of a huge piece of modern art. It's a weird series of white and blue shapes outlined in black, giving them a comic-book feel. In front of it stands a podium, and behind that stands a lady calmly reading from a book.

A large man stands about three feet from her, shouting into her face. The woman, middle-aged with graying brown hair and glasses, is reading names and ages, slowly and deliberately. Spittle flying, the gentleman is shouting at her, his NRA badge riding the waves of his gestures, up and down, up and down.

"THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE NRA! YOU CAN'T CHANGE NOTHING!"

A policeman saunters over, intimidating in his sunglasses and no-fucks-given demeanor.

"I could do with your help, officer," the lady says. "This guy's giving me some hassle."

The policeman suggests that the guy move along. He does, muttering under his breath. The lady, satisfied, returns to reading names.

"What's she doing?" I ask a young dreadlocked woman standing next to her, clearly associated.

"We're occupying this place," she says, gesturing toward sleeping bags hidden inside the art display, "and we're reading out the names of 4,000 victims of gun violence."

"Over what period of time?"

"Four thousand from Sandy Hook up until last week."

To our side, the names of minors and adults alike, from around the whole country, are being read out in the order they died. The giant yelling man is hardly out of sight and another badge-wearing storm cloud is already forming.
_____________________

The speeches happen in the convention center's auditorium, a room so surprisingly sprawling it feels like a really boring version of Doctor Who's TARDIS. Still, going by the numbers, it's not big enough.

The keynote event of the weekend — it's named "Stand and Fight," after the Wi-Fi password, I guess — is two hours away, but it's long sold out. People have plunked down $15 to sit in the overflow hall and watch on a screen. And the keynote himself is right now signing books upstairs, where a line is taking up most of the second floor.

The media platform is raised up in the middle of the crowd, which is pretty rude if you consider the speaker and his disciples' feelings for the press. Before the big speech is the window dressing: Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president and chief shit-stirrer, rallies the crowd. Colonel Oliver North offers a prayer. The music is cued. The lights dim. A huge "G.B." is projected onto the screen, rapidly replaced by a very large, stylized drawing of what I think is an eagle. Glenn Beck, looking more frail and graying than I remember, takes the stage.

"I usually don't make any notes when I'm giving a talk," he says. "I might write something down on a napkin, maybe. Not tonight. Tonight I've got some things I need to say."

We're fighting not only "for our country" but "for our souls," he says. The audience is hushed. Beck, it turns out, has a rifle. He raises it above his head. He's on the verge of tears, as he has been throughout the speech. You can hear his voice break, especially when he mentions Sandy Hook.

"After the Sandy Hook massacre, the government went in, seized the opportunity, exploited these families, and pushed for more control over our lives. It's immoral."

Applause sweeps through the auditorium. Beck takes a moment to collect himself.

"The only way you can control a free people is to lie! The bigger the lie, the longer you deny reality, the more apt people are to believe it."

It's when he says "they've accepted the media lie that the NRA is malicious" that things start to turn. Thousands of eyes turn toward the media. I get the same feeling I had holding that AR-15, only this time they're holding the metaphorical Bushmasters, and I'm the intruder at the bottom of their stairs.

The next day, I come back for more. I talk to a group of elderly men leaned up against a streetlight. They've come all the way from Tennessee, and they're a lot more interested in my views than they are in telling me theirs, which are largely attacks on the recent gun control measures.

"I'm from outside the gun debate," I tell them. "I'm a neutral. Really, I have no idea what I'm doing here."

"You better learn quick, boy. There are some bad people in this country."

I've heard this several times over the weekend, and at this point I start to ask myself, in haltingly perfect English: Do I need a gun? How am I going to stop someone who breaks into my house? Does it matter that a new gun would instantly become my most valuable possession in that house, followed not that closely by my tea kettle?

I limp up the escalator for one last date with madness, a speech by Ted Nugent. He's calling the speech "Freedom Is Not Free," which I immediately recognize as one of the musical numbers from Team America: World Police. It's a ballad satirizing the overuse of the word "freedom" in political rhetoric. I hum it to myself and wonder how to compute what I'm witnessing: a speech by Ted Nugent that unwittingly has the same name as a song that expertly satirizes the likes of Ted Nugent. Eventually it hits me: Satire just died in a conference hall in downtown Houston.

I leave the auditorium before the speech starts, past the "WAAAAALL OF GUUUUUNS" that never runs out of guns, and into the street. I realize as I leave that, no, I'll never squeeze the trigger of an AR-15, that I'll never own a handgun. I probably won't even buy a stun gun. There's just nothing for me here, I think as I make for the door, although I will admit: There's something about those halberds.

E-mail the author at feedback@dallasobserver.com.

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87 comments
Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

I was raised between Denver and Houston . I consider myself a good honest man w/ qualities adopted from both places . Earl Campbell is my favorite RB & Elway at QB, of all time .

This same article ran in Denver, and I compared the comments . Shame on a lot of you people ! We have horrific events YES, but they are NOT common as it would seem because even living in a state rich w/ wild life, (Far beyond ANYTHING Texas has to offer !), there aren't many handguns . Additionally, as a city Denver is NOT 'packing' ! You guys on the other hand, are a complete different story . We had 70 something murders last year . Houston ????

You violent-close-minded-christian-republican-Texans, you missed a good article and the point went right over your heads . 

The beach I sometime miss ....

775510
775510

It's clear in every word written here that we're a society of "Fuck You".  Welcome, Gavin.  We may not understand you, but you fit in better than you think.

my2cents
my2cents

the difference between an equal and a subject the mind boggles when on tries to understand the other free isn't free unless you can defend your personal freedom which is a fail safe of the tyranny governments 

my2cents
my2cents

HOW CAN A SUBJECT UNDERSTAND THE MIND SET OF A FREE MAN GO BACK YOUR QUEEN AND LET HER SOLDIERS PROTECT YOU BECAUSE IN A FREE COUNTRY THERE ARE NO LORDS AND IF YOU GOT BEEF WITH SOME ONE YOU COULD ALWAYS JUST SETTLE UP THE OLD WAY WITH A PISTOL AND A SET OF IRON BALLS

STOPtheLIES
STOPtheLIES

Gavin Cleaver sounded like a coward. Read the entire article. I don't mind most of his bold out right lies, as most liberals are liars, but to lie about murdered children, that is sickening. Stop the Lies Gavin! Do your homework. In Sandy Hook, the assault rifle was left behind in the car. All the innocent children were killed with hand guns. Stop the lies, please. 

STOPtheLIES
STOPtheLIES

Garbage journalism. Red coat riding the coat tails of your wife. Go home, your not wanted or welcome in Texas. Sorry loser. Specifically, your a liar. Parts of your story stated unequivocal LIES. Sandy Hook - the assault rifle was left in his car. He used a hand gun for all killings. Stop the lies, liberal loser. 

Tolerate_it_all
Tolerate_it_all

Where is Myrna to provide the correct viewpoint on this?

Gavin is much better on BBQ and Metal. Stick to your strengths brah!

masongup
masongup

I really don't see the point of this article. Yet another fish-out-of-water story of a Englishman who doesn't know anything about guns and is vaguely terrified of them going to a gun event - hasn't this been done about a hundred times before? In most of the others I've seen, then Englishman in question at least makes some attempt to learn about guns and gun laws in this country. Mr. Cleaver here doesn't seem to do much except write snarky, uninformed commentary about things he makes no attempt to understand. Why not send him to a beanie baby convention instead? That would at least be something different.

maltesejen
maltesejen

After Sandy Hook and all the attention it brought, I wonder if the vendors at gun shows have now become more vigilant about selling guns? Or if it's as easy as before to buy a gun, no questions, no ID, just cash.

billmiller667
billmiller667

In describing the raffle for the gun, the writer leaves the impression that no background check is made. The fact of matter is that when the winner visits his local gun retailer to pick up the gun, the he is run through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Had Gavin Cleaver produced a work of actual journalism instead of a hack piece, he would have included this important fact instead of leaving the false impression with the reader that no check would be made.  In short, he lied by omission.

Why would someone send a reporter to cover a gun convention who is wholly ignorant of the topic at hand?  Would you send a scientifically illiterate person to cover a convention about evolutionary biology?  Cleaver had nothing of importance to say.  I suppose that I really shouldn't expect more from The Houston press.

tacticalsex
tacticalsex

Stupid homo brit. Go back to england with all these other bumbaklaarts and go say there's no gun violence to chronik and slewdem and all the other e3 east london marland bloodz. That's right you probably movd out cos you'd get merked with the toolie damn pussy. You don't know shit goes down in the roads of gundon

tacticalsex
tacticalsex

Stupid homo brit. Go back to england with all these other bumbaklaarts and go say there's no gun violence to chronik and slewdem and all the other e3 east london marland bloodz. That's right you probably movd out cos you'd get merked with the toolie damn pussy. You don't know shit goes down in the roads of gundon

germanyanks
germanyanks

The second amendment is Americas curse. Nowhere, in any other civilised country do you have this massive of gun violence, and a cult of gun worshippers. So many guns in a state that has the highest percentage of people without a high school diploma, is a dangerous thing. There is NOTHING patriotic about this.

mediabeing
mediabeing

There is no 'rubber' on an AR-15. You destroyed your credibility in the first sentence.
That must be some kind of record. The article should have been titled 'An idiot thinks about guns'.
You're fired. I don't want you around at any rifle range!

nascento
nascento

Good piece and an especially good choice to have it written by someone who's a recent American transplant from the UK. After all, America stands alone in the world with respect to easy gun access. To anyone who's traveled abroad, it's immediately evident that nowhere else on the planet (excepting warring states whose residents are hardly 'more safe') are guns more readily available and possessed than right here. 

And while you can plausibly argue that the modern politics of fear are to blame, it's hard to overlook our wild west history and individualism that allowed such a message a soft landing. It's also worth noting that class divisions and income inequality have sharply risen during the past 40 years, so that there really is a 'boogeyman' that these folks can point to in order to induce fear (see the rise of gated communities everywhere).

As a longtime hunter, I can say that the NRA has gone off the tracks a few decades back, evolving from primarily a hunting/sporting and gun safety group, to a much more rabid lobbying arm of gun manufacturers. Whatever rhetoric they use (freedom, constitution etc), their raison d'etre can be found by following the money. It's why Republicans and sportsmen like GHW Bush have jumped ship. The hordes, however, have bought into the rhetoric and maybe the realities of their fears and continue to press on at shows like these, which rightfully shock both foreigners like the author, as well as Texans who aren't part of this sub-culture.


Greg Feczko
Greg Feczko

Thanks for the tip about the iPhone stun gun case :)

Anse
Anse

The thing these wackos fail to recognize is every example of government oppression in our own history was only possible because of the common attitudes among average citizens. A conservative blogger at the Chronicle made an astoundingly acute observation about the Civil Rights Movement: activists had to turn to the courts for help because, for them, the greatest threat was not the government, but the common white citizen they encountered on the street who could send them up the lynch mob's gallows for merely glancing at a white woman the wrong way. That's the thing about democracies. If the government acts badly, it's because WE allow it; the government is a reflection of *us*. If government is "too big" it's because government has been, in our recent history, the only hope for the oppressed peoples of our society. You can scream about states' rights all day but if your underlying "right" is the oppression of a specific group, whatever point you think you're trying to make about "big government" is going to be irrelevant. My point is, these people say they fear government oppression. But it's not government they hate. As long as they can control it, they love them some big-ass government. They're on a power trip, and the gun makes them feel powerful. That's really what it's all about.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@my2cents  

I'd MUCH rather have a 'wet-back' cross the border & enter Colorado,  than  a 'Texan' . 

Before you make a reference towards the 'Juan' name, check my profile ....

H_e_x
H_e_x

@my2cents MAYBE IF I TYPE IN ALL CAPS IT"LL MAKE ME SOUND LUCID AND NOT COMPLETELY INSANE.

BranchRicky
BranchRicky

@my2cents 

A pistol (or rifle or shotgun) might present a lopsided battle against the armed forces of a modern State like ours, but I guess you're free to pretend that you would defend liberty like a true patriot.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@STOPtheLIES  

Remind me the home of the world's BIGGEST terrorist family, (Bush's), again ???

Texas - Home of the 'Red-Neck Terrorist' !!!

It's their goddamn headquarters !

kittenfat
kittenfat

@STOPtheLIES  

(Even if you were correct, isn't a person equally dead from a rifle or a pistol? Maybe you're being ironic, but you don't seem that literate)

kittenfat
kittenfat

@masongup  

If you really, really need a point to hold on to, you might take away that which others have gleaned: that US gun laws are strangely extreme, and that the author has learned this by attending an NRA convention and being schooled. That you don't see our gun culture as extreme just underlines how steeped you are in it.

MelADavis
MelADavis

@maltesejen Vendors?  I think the term you are looking for is private sellers.  

etiene
etiene

@billmiller667 

Well Bill, that check is supposed to happpen at the retailer, but I think they rarely do it, from what my friends in the biz tell me. It really is way too intrusive anyway to run a background check on people. 

And I think your point about sending a blank slate into the convention is rather silly. The man is exploring something which is singular to the US, and even more so in Texas: the easy access very pervasive gun culture. If an alien landed here during other stops around planet earth, he might fairly note that our weird gun subculture really defines a significant part of the US versus other countries. Therefore, sending an outsider was a stroke of genius rather than a foible.


H_e_x
H_e_x

@tacticalsex Ok, who's in a betting mood? What are the odds the person saying this is a scrawny white kid from the 'burbs?

etiene
etiene

@nascento 

This gun fetish is a fear-based thing. And the fear is a politically-driven thing. And the politics is a class/money inspired thing. Taken together they form a ratking.

Look at it this way: If you embrace cutting social programs and safety nets, and your policies lead to stagnant incomes across the board except at the high end, you're going to end up with a shrinking middle class and a growing underclass. Throw in some racial rhetoric about Cadillac-driving welfare queens and Willie Horton and the horde of invading Mexicans and soon you have a bad looking economic picture made worse by ginned-up fear. And on this foundation grows the NRA and the type of people who support it at these conventions and elsewhere. 

CyclnSteve
CyclnSteve

@Anse, If I follow your logic, Common attitude = public policy, then how could oppressed minorities find hope in "big government"?

Who's screaming for the right to oppress others? Those defending gun rights are simply defending the right to the means to defend one's self. Something Civil Rights Movement activist knew about: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/on-mlk-holiday-walking-for-civil-rights-and-the-second-amendment/2013/01/15/c00f816c-5f54-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story.html

H_e_x
H_e_x

@Anse Looks like you were proven right. Some people live in a state of constant fear. It's not too hard to figure out what they are afraid of, even though they obfuscate their language with terms like "thugs."

Dumb-Brit
Dumb-Brit

@Anse  What a load of horse shit. Such a twisted view on things. It looks like the brainwashing took.

Guns keep us safe, believe it or don't. We refuse to be victims and have every right to protect ourselves and our families from robbers, thugs, rapists, and thieves. You don't like it? Tough. 

Oppressed people of our society? I think you spelled entitled wrong. It's time to end the white guilt and stop using race as a crutch. It's not working anymore. People like you have overused it.


MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Thank you. The greatest guarantee against gub'ment oppression isn't ye olde blunderbuss. Yet all these groups so concerned about the tyranny do nothing to get the vote above 50%. Ironically enough, most of back support suppresing the vote. We're at a crossroads and leaning toward aparthied.  

STOPtheLIES
STOPtheLIES

@kittenfat @STOPtheLIES : lmao. liberals. sheesh. always have to start hurling insults when they know they are wrong. anyways, whats the difference which weapon was used, a pistol or an assault rifle? Ask the people of Hiroshima if there is a difference between a grenade and an atomic bomb. they both do the same thing, go bang! 

billmiller667
billmiller667

@etiene @billmiller667  Your "friends in the business" are mistaken. A federally-licensed firearms dealer is required by law to run a background check on prospective gun purchases. Failure to do so constitutes ground for permanently revoking the dealer's license and incarcerating the dealer. It's been the law of the land for 20 years.  When you claim that they "rarely do it," I think that you either do not know what you are talking about, or else you are just making it up as you go along. When Cleaver neglects to mention this fact, I know that he's not a real journalist; he's a hack.  I could go to some Occupy Wall Street event, interview the craziest-looking people there, and then write up some smirking article without ever having to address their message.

Cleaver didn't shed any light on guns, gun policy, violent crime, or the NRA. He is not to be taken seriously.

tacticalsex
tacticalsex

Racist fassi go on and Bring up race when scared of truth. Yr no lengman fuckin pussy rassklaat . Come to newham if u gwan fuck with a real general. Scurrred of a coherent blk

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Oops, a Guelph upstaged by a Ghibelline! I love it. But they won't. If you haven 't gathered, facts simply will not fly here.

mediabeing
mediabeing

@germanyanks @mediabeing  I should have retitled the fluff piece -
'A Dolt midst the yanks'. Yes, that would have suited the article well.

Would you even know a mile if you saw one? I think not. Good journey.

Anse
Anse

@harmflone It's no accident that Republican support for gun control peaked right about that time. The image of scary Black Panthers with guns was a major motivation. But make no mistake, it wasn't the government they were afraid of; it wasn't the government that represented the gravest threat for black Americans. It was the white rednecks who dragged and hung and burned black Americans to their deaths. Our government got "big" because people like this had no choice but to turn to our courts and appeal to our elected leaders for intervention. LBJ would not have had to send troops to Alabama to force the integration of their schools if the bigots in Alabama had not been steadfast in defending their "state right" to be a collection of white supremecist bigots.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

By threatening anyone who doesn't agree with them? For the record, Reverend King never carried a gun while demonstrating for peace, Medgar Evers was shot in the back, and John Lewis was pistol whipped. Your weak attempt at an anology is ignorant and offensive.

Dumb-Brit
Dumb-Brit

@H_e_x  There is no need to lie. I don't live in fear. It's called being prepared.

germanyanks
germanyanks

@Dumb-Brit @AnseGuns keep us safe ????? Hahahaha you are so out of touch. With 12,000 gun deaths compared to 8 or 10 in other countries, you must be sound asleep .

Anse
Anse

@Dumb-Brit @Anse Here's an indisputable fact: It doesn't matter how well armed you are. It doesn't matter how alert you are. It doesn't matter how proficient you are in the use of firearms. If somebody wants to kill you with a gun, and if they know what they are doing, they will be successful 100% of the time. "Guns keep us safe" is a statement that must always be followed by acknowledgment of that fact.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Is "people like you," the same as "you people,"? The American obsession with guns is rooted in a history of repression. Race-baiting is the basis of the gun market--buy a gun to protect you daughter/wife/mother/Labrador from the dark people. The racism is implicit. And then, "Guns keep us safe," un huh, and since the US has SO many guns, why are we so very prone to violence and GUN violence specifically?  

derfenster
derfenster

@STOPtheLIES @kittenfat 

Both pistols and assualt rifles fire single shots when you pull the trigger, so the difference is in barrel length and clip size. They still both fire a single bullet that kills people equally dead.

It's not that one is a weapon of mass destruction, while the other one isn't. 

BranchRicky
BranchRicky

@MelADavis @BranchRicky @maltesejen 

Sorry, I speak several languages, so when I use the word vendor, I use it literally, as someone who is selling something. To 'vende' is to sell in Latin based languages. 

And yes, I know the distinction between a private party sale and a sale that involves an FFL as a go between,  as I've bought multiple guns before. So what's your point, aside from that obvious one?

MelADavis
MelADavis

@BranchRicky @MelADavis @maltesejen As pertaining to gun ownership, laws, and sales, it's pretty important that you can recognize the legal difference between a vendor and private seller here.  Mainly due to the fact that background checks pertaining to gun sales apply to vendors, but not private sellers.  


In other words, know what you're talking about when you get into a discussion.  There is a reason I made the distinction, and it has to do with the law and how it is applied.  If you don't understand that, you don't need to be here giving a dictionary definition of something when the application is specific and pertinent to how gun laws are read, and also incorrect as per the dictionary definition that you have supplied.  

maltesejen
maltesejen

@vonIttlesbach @billmiller667 @etiene  

 BillMiller would have appeared more upright had he simply made his point and left it at that. He didn't need to extrapolate and besmirch the writer or the Press; that made him look somewhat paranoid and supremely petty.

vonIttlesbach
vonIttlesbach

@billmiller667 @etiene  

Hack journalism? Take it easy pal. If journalists mention that groups have protested being harassed by the IRS, and fail to mention that the IRS is barred from law on commenting about  specific cases does that make them hack journalists?

etiene
etiene

@billmiller667 @etiene 

He didn't interview the craziest looking people there. He talked to and observed the *average *people there, who admittedly appear crazy to those of us not in that subculture. 

And he's not smirking, he's just astounded for what passes as normal in this country when it comes to guns and the NRA. I think that sheds plenty of light.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@tacticalsex I just hope he isn't trying to come off as someone from the Caribbean. Listen to one dancehall song and you think you're from the islands.

vonIttlesbach
vonIttlesbach

@MadMac  Sorry your reference to those medieval factions flies over my head. Did you mean something more than opposing groups by your comment?

germanyanks
germanyanks

@mediabeing @germanyanks Thank you for your overly defensive response. Most people reading this article couldn't give a damn about rubber or no rubber. The point was to expose the insanity of gun worshippers , especially in those in Red State mania Texas. As far as your (reactionary )reference, and suspicion to me possibly being a foreigner, you have simply exposed yourself as another insular local yocal. I suppose your membership in the Tea Party has skewed your outlook. Or maybe you need to acquire a Passport and get out more .

MelADavis
MelADavis

@Anse @CyclnSteve The race fight you are posing here really needs to end.  I think trying to perpetuate racial differences is a bigger danger to this country than any amount of guns.  

Dumb-Brit
Dumb-Brit

@Anse Rednecks? There is no need for racial slurs, Anse.

CyclnSteve
CyclnSteve

@Anse You don't need a gun to fantasize though, only a good imagination. I would think these NRA types would be living in high crime area ready to spring into action if that were the case, but they likely traveled to the convention from their quiet cozy suburb. Because PEOPLE PLACE A HIGH VALUE ON SAFETY, when someone buys a gun for protection its not surprising, its a reasonable response to a potential threat, real or perceived. No horseshit, no forced fed rhetoric needed, JUST AN OBVIOUS OBSERVATION.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@harmflone Guns? Ha, when you're ready to defend yourself like a MAN I suggest you pick up a bear armed with a chainsaw.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Exactly. These MoMos have Clint Eastwood delusions--against non-whites, they're Dirty Harry, against the gub'ment, they're Josey Wales. 

Anse
Anse

@harmflone What people want is guns so they can dream about walking into a situation and being the hero. I don't give a damn what bumper-sticker ready horseshit soundbite the NRA taught you to repeat. 

CyclnSteve
CyclnSteve

Your'e very assuming Anse, the article isn't about race,  historical injustices, or government jurisdiction its about the autor's experience at the NRA convention. I haven't been arguing that equality under the law has been provided through gun ownership, for anarchy, or for Republican rule. All I'm saying is PEOPLE WANT GUNS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES!!

Anse
Anse

@harmflone Yes, the police. But who turned the tide of the Civil Rights Movement, harmflone? People with guns? Or good lawyers presenting cases to the courts? The Voting Rights Act, perhaps? Brown v. Board? I'm sorry, do you mean to suggest that the Court was coerced into ruling for black activists because they had guns? Your problem isn't government, your problem is that you can no longer be guaranteed that your people are gonna be in charge, and so now you're obsessed with wielding your peashooter and declaring war, when of course you will do nothing of the sort. The same people who gave the Occupy movement criticism for disrupting business on Wall Street and at the port in Oakland are the people who go on and on about revolution. But show them what actual revolution looks like, and they have no stomach for it. You're about as likely to take a shot at a cop as I am, which is to say, you won't do it. Heck, you guys worship those people. Can we go a day without some NRA fanatic heaping praise on the military? The military, the same people he would presumably fight a war against in a revolution? You don't fear the government, you ARE the government.

CyclnSteve
CyclnSteve

@Anse Black Panthers were tired of getting brutally beaten by the OPD, so protesting with guns scarred the shit out of the racist police!! People fear the government taking their guns because they fear not having the means to defend themselves or their loved ones. Why are you grouping gun rights, limited government and institutional racism together? 

billmiller667
billmiller667

@MadMac Noi one holding a firearm was ever stuffed into a cattle car or a cargo hold of a slave ship. 

MelADavis
MelADavis

@MadMac Your classification that those defending gun rights are doing so by threatening anyone that doesn't agree with them is pretty ignorant and offensive, too.  

H_e_x
H_e_x

@MelADavis @H_e_x @Dumb-Brit Ignoring for a moment the fact that personal anecdotes aren't convincing in the least, I am mocking the belief that in order to be prepared and defend yourself all you need is a gun. 

MelADavis
MelADavis

@H_e_x @Dumb-Brit You know what happens when you make a mockery of crimes that do exist?  You begin to look stupid.  My house has been broken into twice, and once lead to me being assaulted in my own home.  In Houston, I've had my car broken into on practically a weekly basis.  When I went to school (at U of H), I worried about getting out to my car at the end of my evening classes because I would get almost daily email/text alerts from the school about crimes occurring on campus.  You want to go ahead and patronize that?  

H_e_x
H_e_x

@Dumb-Brit @H_e_x But are you prepared for bears riding moose while armed with chainsaws and flamethrowers? The threat is real.

tacticalsex
tacticalsex

Obv a pussy to. transgressive liberal pussyfied middle aged punk who's dad was effiminate queer tought em how to be just like him

MelADavis
MelADavis

@germanyanks @Dumb-Brit @Anse Name one country that is comparable to the United States (in freedoms, culture, diversity and size) that has 8 or 10 total gun deaths.  

Dumb-Brit
Dumb-Brit

@germanyanks  Tell you what, if you are ever accosted, you ward off the attacj with your I-phone. I will use my sidearm instead.

MelADavis
MelADavis

@Anse @Dumb-Brit So why do we even bother with gun control laws if that "indisputable fact" (one that has no backing, by the way) is correct?  Kinda sounds like you are saying no law will get in their way to me.  


MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

So, no cops--they're armed and well trained--are ever shot/killed?

Dumb-Brit
Dumb-Brit

@Anse  Total horse shit yet again. It seems to be par for the course with you, Anse.

billmiller667
billmiller667

@MadMac And you can determine the ethnicity of shadows?   Wow, you must be quite the genius.  :P

MelADavis
MelADavis

@MadMac I think "people like you" and "you people" are the same as "these people," as quoted from the post above that you seem to wholeheartedly agree with.  Does the problem really lie in semantics? 

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Ads in Guns and Ammo, Handguns, etc depict a woman--always white, young, and attractive--pulling the handgun advertised with a look of fear on her face, while menaced by a "shadow." It's called "suggestive inference." Read a book.

Dumb-Brit
Dumb-Brit

@MadMac Are you poised and ready to fling a race card? No one has ever marketed a gun like that, it's a lie.

 
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