Guns: A Civil Conversation?

In the wake of the massacre in December 2012 of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut by a man with an assault rifle, it would seem impossible to have a civil conversation about guns and gun ownership.

Surprisingly, Dan Baum’s Gun Guys: A Road galil for sale  Trip, takes the discussion of guns to unexpected amiable territory. He writes about guns from a personal perspective, taking the stance that they are a sporting item and require a certain amount of expertise much like those who like to shoot a bow and arrow.

Mr. Baum begins his tale of gun fascination from when he was elementary school age in 1961 and attended Sunapee summer camp in New Hampshire. He said he was a “pudgy, over mothered cherub amid a tribe of lean savages.” Learning how to shoot guns at camp made him special. He was a good shot, and this expertise won him a bronze Pro-Marksman medal from the National Rifle Association. He got a patch his first year at camp and every year after that.

He was hooked.

But he had no mentors among his friends or family members who shared his interest in guns. As someone outside the world of avid, pro-gun-rights gun owners, Mr. Baum decided to take to the back roads of the U.S., visiting many gun stores, rifle ranges and gun shows to find what lies behind the powerful allure of guns for others.

Not fitting the stereotype, Mr. Baum knew he’d butt up against some barriers. He describes himself as a New Jersey Democrat now living Boulder, Colorado, a bastion of liberal pacifists. “I’m a stoop-shouldered, bald-headed, middle-aged Jew in pleated pants and glasses.” He used his NRA baseball cap and NRA lapel pin as camouflage to try to fit in more.

He started his research by going out in public wearing an “open carry” gun strapped to his hip for everyone to see. He was looking for reaction from ordinary folks.

His first stop was a Home Depot. He made every effort to be obvious, but he got no reaction — positive nor negative.

Next stop was the local Apple Store. Surely, he wrote, that would cause a response from the technology folks. Again, no reaction. Finally Mr. Baum steeled himself to enter Whole Foods. Clearly the clientele from such a store would have something to say.


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