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.
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.
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?
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
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)
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)
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?
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”)
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!
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.