Tag Archives: handgun

The Gun Show

In my continuing quest to learn about America, I went to a gun show in Phoenix.  For many U.S. citizens, especially those in the Southwest, guns are a key element of the American identify.  The right to own and bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Many Americans have a strong and outspoken affection for their firearms, and gun culture remains a very visible and hotly debated aspect of American life.

Yellow billboard with black writing adversing the Gun Show

Gun Show Advertisement

In the wake of the latest school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, the U.S. Federal government and many state legislatures are debating gun laws (though not all of them are trying to restrict them).  I heard that potential changes to the gun laws were resulting in increased sales of firearms and ammunition, especially items that might be restricted like assault rifles and large ammunition magazines, so I wanted to see for myself.

The show had hundreds of vendor booths packing 3 large buildings plus an outdoor display area.  There were a lot more women and children in attendance than I would have guessed.  For many, it was a family outing.

White sign with black letters saying :No Loaded Guns in the Show"

Sign at the entrance to the show

I was surprised to see that you’re allowed to bring your own firearms into the show, the only safety requirement being that they be unloaded and a very thin zip tie be put around the trigger.  Many attendees were carrying firearms around and signs listing the guns in their backpacks that they had to sell.  Ammunition was sold in 2 areas separated by plastic flagging tape, a symbolic division at best.  There was no visible security, though I’ve never heard of anyone shooting up a gun show.  Does this add weight to the gun advocates case?

Handguns on a table

Handguns for sale

Note – Sorry for the poor image quality.  Photography was banned at the show so these pictures were taken surreptitiously.

Vendors were selling everything I could have imagined related to hunting and personal protection (e.g. rifles, shotguns, hand guns, targets, ammunition, knives, etc.) plus a lot of stuff that I didn’t expect to see for sale:

  • exploding targets
  • survival gear (for the prepared and the paranoid)
  • 3-D human shaped targets
  • concealed carry clothes and purses, each with one or more slots to conveniently carry your concealed hand gun(s)
  • brass knuckles, pepper spray, stun guns, and tasers
  • firearm themed jewellery, and
  • toy guns for the kids
A lont of long guns for sale, laying on a table

Yes, that’s a Thompson machine gun in the foreground

Although I’ve never been to a gun show before, it seemed like there was a general sense of paranoia about the place.  Training courses offered at the show with names like, “How to Survive when the Bad Guys Come” may contribute to this.  I had a helpful guy explain to me how to kill someone with a keychain. I understand hunters and target shooters, but why is everyone here so afraid?  Perhaps I can’t relate because I’ve never lived in a situation where I felt threatened.

There were a lot of T-shirts for sale with slogans like:

  • “It’s a right not a privilege”
  • “In God we trust, but carrying a gun doesn’t hurt”
  • “Armed Patriot”
  • “Power to the People”, and
  • “We don’t dial 911” (i.e. we shoot first and call the police later)

Large black rifle with legs sitting on a table

I was shocked to see the following for sale:

  • magazines that hold up to 100 rounds (there is no limit in Arizona)
  • Kevlar body armour
  • semi-automatic pistols that look like a sub-machine guns (they’re only called a ‘pistol’ because they don’t have an obvious front hand grip)
  • targets with zombie versions of Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Michael Moore, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden (note that only the last 2 are already dead), and
  • a lawyer offering his services (for after you shoot someone)
A large yellow sign with a skull and crossbones saying "Blackgunstuff.com, Your 1 Stop Assault Shop"

Tactical Weaponry Dealer

There was a heavy emphasis on tactical equipment from companies with names like “Death Dealer Tactical”.  Why do people need weaponry intended for soldiers and SWAT teams?

Assult rifles lying on a table

Assault Rifles for sale

They were selling military hardware and gun accessories like:

  • Pistol grip shotguns
  • Assault rifles, with or without LED lights
  • Bayonets (a bit old-fashioned in my book)
  • Drum magazines that hold up to 100 rounds
  • Military-grade body armour with heavy metal strike plates that can withstand fire from a .308 (I was told, “you’ll hardly feel it”)
Snipre rifle on tripod legs with a white background

50 Calibre Sniper Rifle

For me, the most astonishing items I found being sold were huge .50 calibre sniper rifles, each with a maximum killing range of over 1 mile (1500 – 2000 meters).  Yes, these things are legal in the United States!

6 rifle cartridges in front of a U.S. dollar bill to compare sizes

They fire the bullets on the left

I asked what would be required to purchase one, besides a lot of money.  “Only a 1 minute telephone background check”, I was told.  “You can buy it and be shooting in 15 minutes”.  Scary.

Held on the Arizona State Fairgrounds, this is one of 52 gun shows that Crossroads of the West holds each year in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.  Children under 12 are free with an adult.

Paddy Get Your Gun

While visiting our friends Gail and George in their top-secret desert boondocking location outside Yuma, Arizona, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream of mine.  Something that’s been on my Dreams List for years.  Nothing life changing – more of a guilty pleasure kind of thing.

Gail and George had other friends visiting them with their RVs – a retired tugboat captain and his wife from ‘War-shing-tun’ state, and a retired veterinarian and his wife from Colorado (names withheld to protect the innocent).  We learned that the vet (‘veterinarian’ not military ‘veteran’, at least to my knowledge) enjoyed pistol shooting, and he offered to take those from the group that were interested out in the desert to shoot targets.

Although I have had some experience with firearms, I’m not a gun guy.  I learned to shoot a .22 rifle around the age of 12 at the old Langley Rod and Gun Club.  I fired a shotgun at clay pigeons, flying disks that explode when you shoot them, at a Boy Scout Jamboree (I wonder if they’d allow that today?).  I have even taken the Canadian Firearms Safety Course which teaches gun safety, gun storage practices, and responsible gun use.  But perhaps because I’m Canadian, where handguns aren’t common, I’ve never fired a pistol before.

A small group of us drove out into the desert, which wasn’t far at all because we were already camped there.  We set up targets on a hillside, and took turns shooting.

Looking over the shoulder of a man wearing a couwboy had with targets in the distance on a sand hillside

Looking Down Range

Diane, appropriately attired, watched nervously.

Dinae wearing a cowboy hat and sun glasses

Diane looking on

I fired 3 different semi-automatic handguns.

Patrick shooting a handgun seated with arms outstretched on a table

Please ignore my cowlick, our shower was broken!

I couldn’t hit the proverbial ‘barn door’ with the first handgun, but a  red-dot sight makes aiming easy.

Close-up of hands holding 22 black target pistol with a large sight

.22 target pistol with a large red-dot sight

I couldn’t miss.

Patrick firing a target pistol with a large sight

Firing the target pistol

At this point, Diane was encouraged by the group to give it a go.  Diane had never held a firearm before, let along shot one.  Perhaps peer group pressure was a factor, but soon Diane was in the shooting position.

Diane seated getting ready to fire with others assisting her and looking on

Sweaty Palms

Diane cautiously fired a full clip.

Diane firing the target pistol

Little Diannie Oakley

Luckily this .22 had no kick, otherwise her form may have been an issue.

Diane standing looking relieved with white pickup truck in background

A very relieved Diane

The final handgun was this monster.  A ladies purse gun, still semi-automatic, and surprisingly accurate.  I was shocked that I hit every target I aimed at.

Patrick shooting a tiny black handgun

Dirty Harry?

Another dream fulfilled.  More of a whimper than a roar, but still plenty of bang.  Live Boldly.