God bless America, quick! My trip to a gun show – PART I

Posted on April 26, 2011

I have just recently returned from a trip into the belly of the beast…  Florida!  I visited my parents at their luxury estate outside of Tampa and I have much to report.  First let’s get in the mood, shall we?

Welcome to the land of the free and the home of... wings.

The above photo was taken at Reagan International, in DC.  The flight into said airport is pretty cool, as you skim right by all of the major sights.  Highly recommended as a brief stopover.  The older part of the airport featured some nice vintage typefaces and graphics.  Yes I am a typeface degenerate.  Voila:


Why can’t things look like this anymore?  Woe.

Anyways, I got to sunny Florida and immediately enjoyed a fish taco and the beach.  Not bad at all.  It was unsettling, though, in that my parents’ place was located near a nice, scenic island covered with eight miles of beaches.  How lovely.  Weirdly though, in spite of the fact that thousands of people descended on said beach every day, the island was peopled only by white people.  Exclusively!  No black people, no brown people, no asian people, no sir.  It was really really weird.  Even weirder, actually, was the fact that there were always a few black people fishing on the bridge to the island, but apparently they were not allowed to actually cross.  Strange.

The next day I hit the outlet mall hard.  It was a steroid fuelled strip mall, in a sea of scrawny strip malls.  I got some things.  Bizarrely there was a Lacoste store which – quite obviously by design, for some reason – featured no mirrors!  Except in the change rooms.  This is a very curious design choice for a clothing store.  I’ve never seen the likes of it.  The next day I went kayaking with pops, which was a good time.  Then I really got into the Florida groove and played some shuffleboard.  Hell yes!  For all you doubters, a pox on you.  Shuffleboard, it must be said, rules.  A very fun game.  If anyone knows of an outdoor court in Ottawa let me know; I need to get down.

Pretty standard vacation fare so far, sure, but while driving around town I saw a billboard that seemed as though it had been placed there by god himself:  PALMETTO GUN SHOW.  Ohhhhhh yeah!  How could I possibly resist?  Both of my parents refused on principal to accompany me, so I set out at nine sharp to attend the gun show alone.  I’ll admit it:  I was a bit scared.  Not scared that I’d get shot or anything, but scared that my bewildered eyes would give me away as an outsider.  Nonetheless I pulled up at the Manatee Civic Centre and realized immediately that I was outclassed.  1. I was driving a KIA Rondo, not a pickup, SUV, monster truck, or camaro.  Not good.  2. My attire consisted of precisely no camouflage.  Not good at all.

I got into the line and noted the following sign:

That’s right folks!  “All weapons must be unloaded and no loose ammo in show.  This includes concealed weapon permit holders”.  Oh good, the maniacs will take the bullets out at the front desk and put then in their pockets.  What a perfect security system.  Working hypothesis:  Americans are completely insane.  And sure enough I looked up ahead and saw a guy wearing a neck brace standing around the entrance waiting for his pal, with a freaking assault rifle slung casually over his shoulder, and some kind of submachine gun dangling from his waist.  For real!!  I was way too scared to try to take his picture, for fear of being pistol whipped or murdered on the spot.  Instead I stood with mouth agape, trying desperately to comprehend what I was seeing.  There was a large sign saying ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOGRAPHS.  I took that damned serious, so you’ll have to settle for my account, sans photo evidence.

I bought my ticket (no I did not get the $1 NRA member discount) and went inside.  I found myself in another line, and the fellow at the little table asked me:  “do you have a firearm?” No.  Then I should just head right in.  As far as I could tell their extreme security measures included putting a little orange zip tie on people’s guns as they entered.  I got my hand stamped and turned the corner to behold…  Madness!!

I can report that a gun show is just as crazy as you think it is.  Imagine a flea market, or a comic book convention, or an antique market or something like that, except that every single thing on sale is either:

  • a gun
  • a bigger gun
  • something to put on a gun
  • something to advertise how much you love guns
  • some other deadly implement with no purpose except killing people who don’t love guns (switchblades and so on)
  • something to hold or display a gun (there is a large selection of concealed carry wear, attractive leather vests with built in holsters and such)
  • a much bigger and deadlier gun
Holy crap!  Words fail, peace loving friends.  Truly.  The place was filled with table after table of various vendors selling all kinds of deadly items.  I wandered over to a long table full of weapons.  I stared in amazement.  Every table had an array of guns on it, just sitting there, tied down with cables, but available for your perusal.  I observed my fellow gun lovers carefully.  Apparently it was totally acceptable to just walk over, pick one up, look down the sights, imagine killing a terrorist or homeschooled sissy and move on to the next piece.  So I dove right in.  I picked up and aimed numerous shotguns, an AK-47, a colt .45, a .38 special, a .357 magnum, and several other totally ridiculous killing machines.  Observation:  guns are much heavier in reality than they are in video games; the notion of running around spraying assault rifle fire everywhere, then casually grabbing a pair of shotguns and accurately wielding one with each hand?  Not so realistic.  Who knew?  Call Of Duty, thou hast deceived me.
I tried to make it look like I was a discerning customer.  I looked down the sights critically.  Examined the barrels.  Messed with the bolts on the bolt action guns.  Oh yeah, I know exactly what I’m doing.  I prayed that no one would ask me any questions, and thankfully no one did.  As far as I could tell one could just fork over some cash and walk out armed to the teeth, no questions asked.  I found a nice old rifle for $200, and I have to say I was tempted.  Gunlust is a powerful force.  You walk around slowly becoming intoxicated, imagining all of the things you could kill, and all of the various scenarios in your life where you haven’t had a gun, and how WEAK you were.  Damnit!  If I had had an AR-15 with me when those rowdies had accosted me last summer, well things would be different, I’ll tell you.  And at such cheap prices you really start to wonder…  why not?  This could be fun.  Hmm.
Other vendors had all kinds of good stuff, like stun guns for $15 (holy hell it was hard not to buy one), survivalist manuals, ammunition galore, and a dizzying array of knives.  There was no way I was walking out without at least a few choice items, and I found some good stuff.  First off, I needed to get some targets, for practicing my shooting.

Take that Osama!

I purchased this from a charming lady who called me honey.  I asked her about Osama, and whether she thought he’d ever be captured or killed.  She was ready.  “You wanna know why they ain’t got him?”  Yes!  “He ain’t alive.  But they can’t tell us that.”  She went on to theorize that his kidney ailment had felled him, or that maybe he’d been buried under a mountain of rubble after a US bombing run.  I couldn’t disagree.  I’ll imagine that he’s still alive when I’m shooting his face off, though.  If I bought enough targets she’d even throw in a free varmint (I swear on all that is holy that she actually said “varmint”).  How could I resist?

Burn in hell with Osama you masked bandit

Next I needed something to show my brothers and sisters that I was down with the struggle.  I saw two guys with great shirts that made me very envious.  One said “Worst president ever” and the other said “So far he sucks” with Obama’s logo in the the “o” of each shirt.  Awesome!  I wasn’t going to be left behind, and picked up two beauties.


Interestingly this was an early flag that pre-dated Old Glory.  It has a rather fascinating, not-intrinsically-Tea-Party-affiliated history.  It was designed in 1775 by a Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden, and is known as the Gadsden flag.  It is also known as the Metallica Rules flag and the The President Is A Foreigner flag.  Go here to learn more.  Crap!  I’ve run out of space!!  To be continued…
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