My American home, where happiness is a warm gun
Even in Oregon, which backed Obama in 2008 and 2012, there are many who disagree with the proposals. One western Oregon sheriff wrote an open letter to Vice-President Joe Biden on the subject, in which he vowed not to enforce any regulation that offended “the constitutional rights of my citizens”.
A boost for the gun business
Randy Pierce, gun-owner and resident of Sandy, Oregon, is similarly unimpressed. We meet at Northwest Armory, one of the biggest gun stores in the Portland area. “His [Obama’s] solutions aren’t solutions. Crooks aren’t gonna call up and say ‘Is it legal for me to have a gun?’ before they go kill someone,” he says. Pierce owns more than 20 guns, and is there to buy a particular kind of ammunition, but Northwest Armory is out of stock.
“Everybody’s sold out of everything,” he says. “Nobody has ammo or guns. What Obama did was give the gun manufacturers a big boost in business.”
Inside the store, business is clearly booming. I’m assured that, despite the fact that I’m not a citizen, I can buy a gun with my green card, assuming my background check comes back clean. The background check usually takes about 10 minutes, although a staff member tells me that lately it’s been slower and can take up to two hours.
He also tells me that Northwest Armory is one of the few places that still has in stock the type of guns that would be banned by the proposed measures. With a sweeping gesture, he takes in an entire wall hung with AR-15s – magazine-fed assault rifles, the type of weapons used in Sandy Hook and in the shooting in a cinema in Colorado earlier last year that left 12 dead.
Apparently, the store is “waiting on inventory” that’s been ordered to satisfy the high demand. If the ban comes into force, it will not have any effect on the assault rifles sold today.
If I buy one now, I get to keep it.
I don’t buy an assault rifle. I don’t buy a Sig Sauer P220. But I do learn something from the experience of shooting a gun. As I stand in that chilly shooting range and take my first few shots, I am terrified.
I am keenly aware that I have in my hands an implement with which I could end a life – my own, Fergus’s, the 19-year-old in the lane beside me. But after 20 shots, I stop shaking. After 40 shots – the minimum bullet purchase for the gun I rent is 100 – I am strangely at ease and mainly concerned with hitting the target, as if I am just playing darts in a pub.
There is a shift in Fergus, too. He is also shaking when we begin to shoot. But after it’s over, he turns to me: “This is a good gun,” he says. “I think I’ll keep it.”