Experiencing gun culture first hand at the shooting range
Its customers this morning are young white professional males in their 30s, the kind of men who want to get out of the house after Christmas. There are a couple of young women who could be classified in the category of girlfriend, wearing the ear protectors over their blond hair and flinching in their miniskirts at the kickback of their guns.
Strangely enough, and who knows why it should be so, but women are said to be better at shooting than men, at least at the start. But of course it is men who love shooting, really love it. It is drenched in machismo and in masculine defiance. The bumper sticker on the SUV that rolled into Top Gun’s crowded car park just ahead of us read “Come take it” over a small drawing of a cannon, for God’s sake; presumably an echo of the late Charlton Heston’s remark about the guns having to be taken from the National Rifle Association members’ cold dead hands.
Behind the counter at the Top Gun shooting range is a sign that warns potential criminals “We don’t call 911”. There is one black assistant and one Jewish assistant who is wearing a very large skull cap; even the yarmulkes are bigger in Texas. As we leave, a family with young children is coming in.
Down at Collectors Firearms, Piers Morgan would be unhappy – or perhaps triumphant – to see how busy this huge store is. The inevitability of some form of gun control is driving up trade. It is decorated with spiked Prussian helmets, among other things. There is a shelf of old Lugers, with their handles scored to look like alligator skin. In the same case there’s a shelf of Mausers, one from 1896.
The antique and the modern sit together here. At one counter two young men are waiting as a shop assistant fills out the lengthy form to buy a gun. You don’t need a licence to own a gun here, but you do need a licence to own a concealed handgun.
Both the police check and the gun training for getting your concealed handgun licence are pretty thorough. There are a surprising number of old men, very pale under their cowboy hats.
“It’s gonna be crazy til the end of January,” said one shop assistant.
“Well, you’re dealing with an unknown,” said an old man wisely.
“That’s it,” said the shop assistant.
He was very busy.