Gun show reveals more than guns

I attended the Rose City Gun Show this weekend. Most urban dwellers cringe at the thought of guns, as well they should. If you don’t know what to do with the thing, you shouldn’t be touching it!

I do, however, think most urbanites are way too uptight about guns. I am from the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” school. But I was raised in a small town where guns were casual wear. I consider myself to be a responsible handler of firearms, but I disagree with Charlton Heston’s notion that AK-47s are appropriate for hunting large game.

At any rate, I accompanied my boyfriend and his brother to the gun show on Saturday. Apparently we were searching for antique firearms, which they both collect.

The Expo Center was filled to bursting with men who had not seen their toes in 20 years. They were fat, fat men with soda in one hand and barbecue bento in the other. I am not kidding – they had barbecue bento.Overalls or distressed jeans that snugly belted below the belly roll were de rigeur. Some daring folks donned authentic (right down to the smell) western wear, complete with jangling spurs! Surprisingly, I only counted three or four men in paramilitary gear.

I almost felt like I had jumped home to Klamath Falls!

Even though there were guns everywhere, the patrons and merchants at the gun show were carefully observing the rules of the show as well as safety rules. Most gun owners are responsible and careful, even if they do wear greasy baseball caps.

While the boys look at guns, their patient wives (and girlfriends) can peruse a dizzying array of Beanie Babies. But that’s all. Nothing else is even remotely feminine, except for the tiny Derringers. My boyfriend told me he would buy me a Beanie Baby for being so patient. All I could do was grimace at him.

I am not a collector of the Beanie Babies, so I decided to check out the exercise of free speech at the booksellers’ stalls. I saw titles ranging from “M-1 Garand Field Maintenance Guide” to white supremacist titles. The subject matter was heavily oriented toward conspiracy theories.

One could also purchase T-shirts and stickers that said things like, “I love my country, but I fear my government,” a sentiment I have been relating to a lot lately. You could also buy T-shirts with Osama bin Laden’s face in the center of a target.

To my surprise, these folks were not supporters of the president or his administration. I got the distinct feeling these people just wanted to be left alone in their mountain compounds. There was just as much propaganda against Republicans as there was of things liberal.

There was just one frightening aspect of the gun show, and it was not the guns. Our little party was clearly unwelcome at certain tables. You see, my boyfriend and his brother are Asian-Americans, and the sight of a tiny white girl holding the hand of a very tall Korean man is disgusting to some people. I have not experienced that very often, and am always horrified, then guilty, when it does happen.

There were other yucky things at the gun show. Some vendors were selling Nazi war memorabilia. I know you can sell and even wear these things if you are so inclined, but that doesn’t make it any less shocking to see it. The worst thing I saw was a group of young teenagers perusing the Nazi wares. “Cool,” they said. I got nauseated.

The only remotely “normal” people at the gun show were the antique dealers. I had a feeling they didn’t usually handle guns all day long, because they looked as if they felt as uncomfortable as I did. I’m sure they much preferred the environs of their stores.

I was pretty glad when we left, an hour or two later. I had a headache from breathing in solvents. I was also tired of looking at handguns and rifles. They all look the same to me anyhow. Plus, the undercurrent of weird right-wingness left me feeling on edge.