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The things they asked for…

A more modern version of the gun counter behind The Gun CounterI wasn’t in “the gun business” full-time, but I sat behind the gun counter of a large sporting goods retailer part-time for quite a while. We didn’t stock any handguns (pity) or any long guns that were especially scary( and certainly no “assault weapons”), but I did learn a lot from my customers all the same.

Many customers would come in knowing exactly what they wanted, which made for an easy sale. Other times, customers would come in and ask for the “best gun for…” and we’d have to try to fill their need.

Typically, the requests were fairly easy, such as the “best gun for…” one of the following:

  • pest control
  • hunting
  • defense
  • target shooting/plinking

Other times, work was more… interesting.

The exterminators

The store I worked in was in a heavily populated area (Cary/Raleigh, North Carolina), but you would still be amazed at the number of suburb-dwellers that would come in look for a gun to use for pest control in their McMansion-stuffed neighborhood. Often these were folks who had never owned a firearm or hadn’t shot one since they were a kid. They didn’t seem to give much thought to the facts that:

  • it is generally illegal to discharge a firearm within “X” feet of an occupied dwelling
  • songbirds are illegal to shoot, even if they are mockingbirds.
  • it is illegal to shoot the neighbor’s pets, even if they do poop on your lawn or dig up your flowerbeds
  • it is illegal to shoot small game out of season,even if Chippy the squirrel is nesting in your attic

The most dangerous lame

Some people simply should not have guns, for one reason or another. One father/son combo in particular still gives me nightmares. Dad was in his mid-50s, grew up urban somewhere Up North, and didn’t know diddly about guns. Junior was a slovenly butterball teenager, who knew All He Needed to Know about guns… from where, I have no idea.

Basically, Junior wanted to biggest,blackest, scariest,  semi-automatic-iest gun he could get his hands on for “moose hunting and stuff.” The fact that we were in Raleigh, North Carolina didn’t seem to phase dad one bit.

Junior wanted big gun. Doting dad seemed willing to buy it.  A  newspaper headline of “Teen blows off leg at range”  flashed through my mind. Then apparently common sense or a sense of self-preservation kicked in for dad, and he and a sulking Junior left empty-handed.

Until it happened to us

Truth be told, I only dealt with two pairs of customers that wanted to buy a gun specifically because of crime, and they each made an impression.

The first pair was a a newly-married couple. Like a lot of couples starting out, they had moved into a neighborhood that wasn’t the best. Someone tried to break into their house through the back door in the middle of the night, and they were standing in front of me the next day. They seemed scared of guns, but were now more terrified of not having one.

I remember I was able to talk them down from the 12-gauge 8-shot combat shotgun he’d seen in the movies to something more reasonable – a Mossberg Bantam in 410 that she could handle as well – and a couple of boxes of shells. I emphasized the importance of going to the range and practicing.

I wonder if they ever did.

The second pair that left an impression were an older couple that appeared to belong to the country club set. I forgot specifically what happened to them to spur them into gun shopping, but I want to say it was possibly something that happened to someone else in their neighborhood.

They wanted something small. They wanted a gun to wound, which is what I remember most vividly. I tried to explain that if you were at the point of having to shoot you needed to shoot to stop and be prepared to shoot to kill. I told them that you do not want a small gun that will only wound someone trying to kill you.

She gave me got the curled lip I suspect she normally reserved for those who accidentally sat in “her” pew at church. They left empty-handed in a huff.

The vast majority of my customers – and there were hundreds, if not thousands – were good folks who knew what they were doing. These exceptions,  however, I’ll remember for a very long time.

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