Weekly column by Daniel Kalder
The first time I ever attended a gun show I was a young lad, newly arrived on these shores. It was quite mind-bending to enter a hall in North Austin and see thousands of guns laid out on tables awaiting buyers. Isn’t this a bit dangerous? I thought.
How times change. Recently I attended another gun show in Belton, TX, a boring little town outside Waco. The first thing I saw was a man with a rifle slung over his shoulder, looking to sell or trade. I barely blinked.
Even so, I still need a guide when around firearms. I’ve gone shooting a few times, but guns are like sex: once you’ve unloaded, the mystery is gone, but that doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing. Thus, for instance, I was totally perplexed as to why a rifle cost twice as much as a shotgun.
“That’s because of the range,” explained my friend. “A shotgun is only good up close. It’s for shooting pigeons, birds, that sort of thing. The shot creates a spray.”
“What about intruders? Will it stop intruders?”
“It’ll shred ‘em, so long as they’re close enough. The other good thing is that any stray shot will stay in your walls. It won’t go into the next room and hit somebody else, like a shell from a rifle or handgun.”
Unless the shell is hollow tipped, of course, in which case it will explode on contact with an intruder or wall alike.
And so I roamed among the shotguns, rifles, handguns, semiautomatics and stun-guns, soaking in the Second Amendment joy. Unlike Austin, where a gun show might also attract weapon-loving hippies and middle class guys in suits, the Belton crowd was pretty much the hunting-and-overalls set, the kind of people East Coasters fear. I saw majestic white beards, and eavesdropped on conversations about mysterious lore - gun culture, like the Catholic Church, is steeped in codes, specialized language and rules.
But gun shows are not exclusively about firearms. You can also buy knives! And T-shirts: “SOME PEOPLE ARE ALIVE SIMPLY BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL TO KILL THEM,” “KILL ‘EM ALL, LET ALLAH SORT THEM OUT” and “AFRICAN LION/LYING AFRICAN.” No prizes for guessing whose face illustrated the last part. In Belton they were also selling seeds in ammo boxes as (the seller informed me) when the economy collapses self-sufficiency will be as vital for survival as a well-stocked armory.
And then there were stalls selling beef jerky, leather belts and scented candles. Yes, really: though the audience was largely male, there were a few women in attendance. In fact, I even saw a pink hunting rifle, the Mossberg 702 Plinkster, a snip at $225. There were kids too, but there wasn’t much for them, other than the education that comes from early exposure to firearms, which is important when you live in a country where there are so many millions of them. In rural Texas especially, where most kids hunt with their parents and many go on to serve in the military, every young boy or girl needs to know the basics of gun safety.
The book selection, alas, was mediocre. Sure there was the usual self-defense and survivalist stuff such as The Coming End of the World, plus The Anarchist’s Cookbook, not to mention the indispensible Traveler’s Guide to Gun Laws of the United States. But nobody was selling How to Survive in Prison which I had seen at the Austin gun show. It includes excellent advice on stabbing, gouging and pummeling when you’re in lock-up. On the other hand there was an excellent manual on booby traps that showed how to rig a grenade so that it will explode suddenly, transforming your enemies into pink spray.
Fun for all the family then; and yet I do still wonder what the market is for semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15, which comes with many accessories including silencers and sniper sights, all of which were available at the One Stop Assault Shop. Sure, semiautomatics are good for mowing down zombies, but if you shoot a deer, it’ll be riddled with bullets and inedible, while if you want to defend your home- well, isn’t that what handguns and rifles are for? The paranoiac market is extremely small, so these are really just expensive toys, until they enter the hands of a rage killer.
And it was at that moment that I was struck by the astounding level of freedom enjoyed by Americans. This summer we’ve seen several mass shootings, and yet neither electoral candidate is pushing for gun control.
It’s amazing the government lets them get away with this, I thought, exactly like a European. But any one of the Texans in the hall would have immediately responded that I was looking at it the wrong way, that citizens voluntarily loan power to the government and do not need to seek permission to exercise their rights.
And there, perhaps, lies the fault line between European and U.S. attitudes to authority. The gun debate is not only about guns. And while, like all philosophies, the American idea of liberty pushed to its extreme can result in absurdities, even tragedies- that does not mean it is wrong.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
What does the world look like to a man stranded deep in the heart of Texas? Each week, Austin- based author Daniel Kalder writes about America, Russia and beyond from his position as an outsider inside the woefully - and willfully - misunderstood state he calls “the third cultural and economic center of the USA.”
Daniel Kalder is a Scotsman who lived in Russia for a decade before moving to Texas in 2006. He is the author of two books, Lost Cosmonaut (2006) and Strange Telescopes (2008), and writes for numerous publications including The Guardian, The Observer, The Times of London and The Spectator.
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- GarryB(no title)05:17, 12/09/2012Actually some English shotguns can cost more than a house.
A shotgun operates at lower pressures than a rifle and has a simple smooth bore with no rifling.
They can be much cheaper than rifles, and they can also be much more expensive.
They are generally cheaper because they are generally simpler.
As a hunting weapon they are generally more flexible.
For killing people or self defence they are not that flexible.
To be effective against people you either need a solid slug or heavy ball bearing loads, and a solid slug is powerful but not accurate over longer range, while the heavy ball bearing or buckshot you really don't have much control over where the projectiles actually go.
A burglar holding a knife to your wifes throat and you have a shotgun loaded with buckshot you could just as easily kill them both.
To be heavy enough to reliably stop someone they also generally will go through internal walls too.
Pistols are no where near as accurate as they are portrayed on the silver screen.
A decent short rifle is the best solution... well the best solution is good locks and a home security system that keeps the bad guys outside your house in the first place.
I would also say that the information you were given about hollow point ammo is amusing.
Very simply lead is used in projectiles because it is cheap and heavy, its weight or more accurately its high density means it retains speed as it pushes through the air to the target.
If you can imagine a very low density item like a balloon, it takes a lot of energy to get it up to speed and because of its size and lack of weight it rapidly slows down when released.
Making projectiles out of lead is a problem because the lead is soft and leaves residue in the barrel that needs to be cleaned.
Also because it is soft it tends to splatter and deform when it hits hard things.
The human body is 70% water and water does not compress so a body is actually a hard object to a bullet.
For this reason bullets have what are called jackets, which is simply an outer layer of mild steel or metal that is harder than lead to give it strength and help it keep its shape.
A full metal jacket means the bullet is completely enclosed in this metal jacket.
A soft nose, or hollow point bullet has the nose of the jacket open exposing the lead inside. The hollow point actually has a hollow cavity in the nose.
What happens is that with the jacket is moves through the barrrel better and doesn't leave lead in the rifling, the mild steel jacket engages the rifling which spins and stabilises the round so it flys straight, but when it hits a target the open soft nose flattens against the target while the mass of the round pushes it through.
Except for very small very fast rounds the hollow point does not explode, it just expands, so instead of making a 9mm diameter hole it might make a 13mm diameter hole. The larger the hole the more area the target has to bleed, which induces shock quicker and kills more humanely. Soft nose ammo is intended to kill animals quickly to reduce suffering.
Finally regarding the use of semi auto weapons leading to uneatable meat... that is simply absurd.
Just because you have a semi automatic rifle doesn't mean you fire as many shots at the target as you can till your magazine is empty.
Or are you suggesting people who own motor cars with automatic transmissions always drive faster than the speed limit because they drive by putting their foot to the floor and leaving it there?
Not everyone wants a manual gearbox, just the same as not everyone wants to have to manually operate a bolt every time they shoot.
Any anti-ISIL operation in Iraq cannot be effective unless the Islamic State is attacked in Syria. But the final statement of the Paris Conference did not mention Syria as a precaution against disunity in the coalition and with due regard for the Russian position.