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Fatwah / Investigative Report / December 8, 2008

It’s 3:45 p.m. in Los Angeles. Outside, the sun is shining, people are walking their dogs. I can hear the laughter of children returning from school … Out here, in the land of sunshine, a few footsteps away from Venice, one feels as safe and peaceful as can be. Obama stickers adorn Priuses. People ride bicycles. They recycle, buy organic and free range. They shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Hope and optimism are in the air. I’m feeling peaceful and safe, too. But only because a fully loaded .357 Magnum is sitting on my desk. I spent four years observing this place from a safe distance in Moscow, and it makes me nervous now that I’m back in my adopted home state. There are just too many unknowables here to feel safe without some form of serious protection. So the first thing I did after touching down in Los Angeles was buy a gun.

I went down there on a Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and the store was already teeming with anxious gun  consumers. A mass of people were crowding the rifle section. People were lining up at the handgun counter. A young couple with a kid was testing out the weight of a pump-action 12-gauge. Meanwhile, more people streamed through the doors. It felt more like WalMart on Black Friday than a neighborhood gun store on a sleepy Sunday. “They’re buying up everything,” a wiry Asian store clerk with a greaser hairdo and monster-sized pistol strapped to his hip said with a smirk. “People want equal opportunity explosives.” But people were clearly showing a preference for high-powered handguns, the kind that blow up a man’s head. “We’re sold out of the Smith & Wesson 686,” a military-type salesman shook his head in embarrassment. Running out of this classic .357 was like Rite Aid running out of aspirin. It seemed the Obama-inspired gun craze was living up to its name. But this wasn’t Texas or even Bakersfield. This was West LA. Sony Studios were just around the corner, Venice Beach a few miles to the West, Beverly Hills to North and Compton to South: the epicenter of Obama’s California stronghold. Sure enough, a 30-something yuppie proudly sporting an Obama t-shirt queued up at the counter and started picking out a snub-nosed 38 special. It was gonna be his first gun, a self-defense tool that even an anorexic valley girl — or a sissy white male — could fire with ease. I looked around in shock. Obama supporters arming themselves to the teeth? This is not what the media had been reporting.

Judging by the spike in the number of mandatory background checks, gun sales have been up by almost 50% since Obama made his acceptance speech. But gun haters of all stripes and colors have been trying to whitewash the scary idea by a) attributing it to crazed rednecks or b) denying it even exists. “We don’t dispute the gun sales hike, but we think it’s just a bit stupid,” a spokesman for the Brady Campaign against Gun Violence was quoted as saying. “We don’t think these are first-time buyers. We think they are people who already have more than enough guns at their homes to protect themselves and are buying more.” He thinks, but has nothing to prove it. His implication is clear: these people are crazies and need to be disarmed. NOW! Over at Slate, Jack Shafer went one step further. He did a David Copperfield on the statistics and made the whole trend disappear altogether. He pointed out that gun ownership rates have dipped and grown over the past ten years, but have remained largely unchanged for the past ten years (at just over 8 million guns a year). Meanwhile, the US population has grown. So, what he’s really saying is that despite the Obama-inspired spike, gun ownership is decreasing overall. But ten days after I bought my gun, I found out just how wrong they really were.

The realization came, of all places, at a vegan Thai restaurant. I had just come back from the firing range and was loudly discussing my spot-on target practice with a friend of mine. “There’s an indescribable satisfaction in the knowledge that I can blow up a dude’s head at 40 ft. with just a couple shots.” I was blessed with two undeniable gifts: a uncanny sense of smell and a steady hand. Good traits for a hunter, but unusual for a skinny Jew like myself.

“Are you going to keep it loaded all the time?” my friend asked.

“Sure I will. What’s the point of having an unloaded weapon,” I replied. “I didn’t buy it to use as a vase, did I?” I turned my head and I noticed a woman staring me down from across the room. She was in her 50s, an old school urban hippie by the looks of her raggedy flannel shirt and worn PETA t-shirt. Shit, I thought, I’m committing a double crime: talking on a cellphone in a restaurant and boasting about a gun made for one and only purpose: killing living beings. This is the sort of thing PETA would love to hang people for.

I hung up the phone, and the next thing I knew, she was hovering over me with a crazed look in her eye. I cringed, expecting some sort of moralistic guns-are-for-killing diatribe, maybe even get a Thai iced tea thrown in my face. But she wasn’t angry. She was concerned, and worried. “I’m sorry to intrude, but I couldn’t help overhearing you talking about buying a gun. The thing is, I am actually buying one as well.” Her name was Pam. She looked around, embarrassed at what she just said. “Do you know of any good gun stores around here? The one I went to was very expensive.” A PETA member asking me for gun advice? And in a desperate I’m-hurting-for-a-fix kind of way?

“Wow. You really would kill a living thing?” I asked.

“Yes. Absolutely,” she said. A white-boy rasta with waist-long dookie dreads in the corner stole a quick glance at us and quickly returned to his soy roast beef wrap. He wasn’t about to start arguing with two gun psychos. “I know it sounds crazy. I’ve been a vegetarian for over ten years. But with the way the economy is going… I just don’t feel safe. The world has changed.” Pam’s organic pepper spray didn’t cut it any more for self-defense. These days, lethal force is the only sure thing. Obama or not, Pam was not putting her hopes into anything but a piece of cold steel. And she already signed up for a gun class to learn how to shoot to kill. This wasn’t just about exercising her constitutional right, it was about real fear.

You don’t appreciate the warped American mind until you’ve smelled the faint tang of red curry and soy fish on a gun owner’s breath. Pam was a new type, a PETA-NRA hybrid who prefers hunting for human flesh and
steers clear of anything with wings or more than two legs.

And Pam is not the only Obama-supporting Prius-driving lefty with fear in her heart and bloodlust in her eyes. At a gun store, she ran into another vegetarian shopping for a kill tool. He was looking for something small and simple that could take down a person with one shot. “He said he was vegetarian, too,” she said. “And I believe him. You could see that he doesn’t eat meat by the freshness around his eyes.”

If these two are any indication, a sleeper gun-toting community is rising up from the unlikely recesses of the liberal abyss. Somewhere, just beyond the restaurant’s glass door, hundreds — even thousands — of crunchy amateurs had their guns loaded and ready to go. Educated white people gravitating towards firepower, it’s a scary thought for gun control advocates. Even Obama has been getting a little nervous.

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37 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. John Smith  |  December 8th, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Great article. I hope a failing economy will be incentive to relax gun laws even more.

  • 2. bubba  |  December 8th, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    I see the SVR found you. That’s why you bought a gun.

  • 3. wengler  |  December 9th, 2008 at 12:49 am

    When the vultures swoop in to try to pick clean the carcass of this society, we ain’t going down with a whimper. The bailout cements the current value of all money to the rich and death to the poor. We cannot kid ourselves and believe that our massive arsenal of small arms is invincible, but the bank man that just got money for screwing up so badly, might get at least some cosmic payback when he starts going after the homes of workers laid off because of the bankman’s greed.

  • 4. Roger Dodger  |  December 9th, 2008 at 3:28 am

    At least Clinton kept us safe.

  • 5. Demented Pirate  |  December 9th, 2008 at 3:46 am

    I think the whole “the government fears armed citizens” thing is a myth. For one, as a friend of mine in the Armed Forces once told me, in the unlikely event that the population actually would rise against the government all those hand guns and hunting rifles would do jackshit against even the most underfunded and badly trained military unit. In a drawn out insurgency campaign they would probably help but, as the War Nerd is always fond of pointing out, Americans probably don’t have what it takes for something like this. (Which, btw, is a good thing. The mentality and ideological fanaticism necessary to wage a guerrilla war are nothing that’s commendable or even all that sane).
    Also, in a country where it’s the conservative right wingers who are all for arming the population the “Guns for the Revolution” argument seems kind of questionable.

  • 6. Amos  |  December 9th, 2008 at 4:30 am

    Gun control works great, after Stalin disarmed the Ukrainian peasants he was able to murder 6 million of ‘em, no problem. What were they going to do about it, write a strongly-worded letter to the editor? ha ha ha

  • 7. Amos  |  December 9th, 2008 at 4:38 am

    As for Americans having no stomach for civil war, would this be the same America that’s already had one and also beaten the living fuck out of everyone who ever said “the decadent Americans have no stomach for war?” The whole country is not made up of Manhattan faggots you know

    In the event of a breakdown in constitutional rule, more than half of the military would be on the side of the revolt anyway, probably allot more than half.

  • 8. Demented Pirate  |  December 9th, 2008 at 5:17 am

    My counter-argument against myself would have been the War of Independence, not the Civil War, but suit yourself. As to beating the living shit out of others: well, in a civil war or insurgency you can’t sit back and press some buttons to watch your guided missiles obliterate the enemy while you sit in your cosy bunker, so I am not too sure about that.
    And half the military joining an uprising? Perhaps if it’s a military coup or nationalist revolution. But the scenario here is a breakdown of civil order due to a financial crisis. And I really doubt the military would gleefully join such a “revolt”.

  • 9. Hamlet  |  December 9th, 2008 at 5:53 am

    The last time, I checked definitions it read like this: “Soldier, a person, who gets paid to shoot at other persons as ordered, NOT to think freely and question aforementioned orders”. Okay, then there is the little problem left, that a soldier might be ordered to shoot @ relatives, which can be solved by a simple human resources background check (i.e. your computer can do it for you). Drive all “peacekeeping” soldiers, who are from the east coast to the west coast and vice versa. There you go – a nice civil war. If you have some funds to spare you can of course invest in some propaganda, which marks the insurgents as unpatriotic Unamericans. There we go: Civil War II(tm) – now with even more killing.

  • 10. Hamlet  |  December 9th, 2008 at 5:54 am

    …and if they refuse? No paycheck for you, GI Joe!

  • 11. MasterMind  |  December 9th, 2008 at 6:13 am

    Back to the good old Wild West times! Yahoo, America, welcome back!

  • 12. Jacob  |  December 9th, 2008 at 6:36 am

    The people who argue that the weak economy is supposedly a good reason to own a gun are either stupid paranoid sociopaths or the gun freaks who are looking for yet another excuse to buy a gun.

    This is just a recession folks. We had many of these. On the global scale, even the Asian financial crisis of the 90s was a lot worse. At least this time the major countries like Argentina, Korea, or Russia are nowhere near to implode and default on their foreign debt obligations. Even during the Great Depression the US society failed to reduce to the lawless anarchy the gun touting survivalist phychonuts of Montana had been waiting for for over 100 years now. Cold war was their bogey man, now it is “the economy”. Please, if your average liberal-arts-major-turned-corporate-office-desk-paper-mover can afford to be a picky, Prius-driving, latte-drinking, whole-foods organic food eating gun nut, then the economy is doing well enough. Just get over it already.

    The argument that the government is afraid of armed population is laughable. As already mentioned, the least competent national guard unit is more than well enough prepared to repel the assault of some idiots who think that buying a gun makes them into a “militia”.

    As for violent crime prevention, the only reason so many people die from gun violence in USA is _because_ of the second amendment. If the sales of all new guns were banned for 50 years, this would stop being a problem. No guns – no problem. Legal gun ownership is not effective against violent crime because outside of a few backward backwater areas in the USA, people rarely own guns. On the other hand, the legal gun ownership is a real boon for the real criminals because it creates an endless supply of cheap weapons for them.

  • 13. UselessSpace  |  December 9th, 2008 at 6:40 am

    “As any freedom-loving American knows, guns are what America is all about. They are the foundation of just rule, the last and final of the checks and balances built into our decrepit system, and the only one that puts direct power in the hands of the people.”

    Ah, yes, remember the Great Revolution of 2000? When tens of thousands of gun-toting American patriots descended on Florida and forced the Governor at gunpoint to make every. Single. Ballot. Count? How, by exercising their 2nd Amendment rights, the American people prevented the rise to power of an unelected and corrupt President? Good times, good times.

  • 14. Amos  |  December 9th, 2008 at 7:20 am

    Christ, your not still banging that bullshit drum eight years later are you? You lost the recount, deal with it, dumbass. Isn’t the Obamessiah going to kiss and make it all better with his rainbow unicorn powers anyway? Dry those tears, buttercup.

  • 15. az  |  December 9th, 2008 at 7:38 am

    >You could see that he doesn’t eat meat by
    > the freshness around his eyes.
    Do you know what the gray freckles and the pale and frail skin all vegans (and a lot of vegetarians that don’t take enough care with their diet) develop after some time are a symptom of? Do you know why children fed vegetarian are smaller, weaker and less intelligent than their peers? Do you know why children fed vegan develop muscular atrophy and die?
    Sorry, but I can’t such dangerous BS stand uncommented even in a quotation.

  • 16. LSAIJFD  |  December 9th, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Now we’re talking. The eXile’s supposed “liberal” politics RIP. I never believed that ambitious, sexist yuppies like Ames, Dolan, or Taibbi were progressives. Never bought it for one second.

  • 17. i  |  December 9th, 2008 at 8:26 am

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article5299010.ece

    uk / guns / india

  • 18. ShMiller  |  December 9th, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I hate hearing the “Stalin disarmed people too!” argument. He disarmed them because few would have the balls to shoot at Stalin’s Red Army anyway. In other words, it was just a formality. Stalin didn’t mess around … just ask Chechnya sometime.

    By the time these dictators are strong enough to grab people’s guns, it’s usually too late already.

    One dictator who didn’t disarm the population is Saddam Hussein; being armed is just too deeply ingrained in the fabric of Iraqi society. That was a bridge too far even for him to cross. And yet he seemed to run a nice Republic of Fear n’ all even though people could occasionally shoot at him. (And once in a blue moon they did … much to the detriment of their extended family and possibly entire village)

  • 19. Stuck in Jersey  |  December 9th, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Yup.

    Sleepers all over. I’m one of them. Got the itch outta the blue back in ’05. Took a handgun safety class, and haven’t looked back.

  • 20. Baked Dr. Luny  |  December 9th, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Gun ownership can really only protect the people from really blatant and severe abuses. I’m talking North Korea-style fuck-ups that cause people to die of starvation, we’d have a coup long before people started up a revolution.

  • 21. Merc  |  December 9th, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Hey Amos, remember you saying you’re not American: (post #52 in the “My Boyz taking my tips” article) “calling me a Klan supporter and assuming I’m an American (I’m not) who lives in a trailer park (I don’t).”

    You seem to defend Americans quite often for not being an American. Oh America – how sad it is, Americans pretending not to be Americans, in order to give their arguments credibility to defend America. Damn, I did not realize America has fallen this much. Thank you for showing me that Amos.

    Or maybe I’m wrong and Amos is just an outlier. Either way, go buy your gun folks. It won’t protect you from the military, but it’ll protect you from the police and more importantly the bankers, poll workers and door to door salesmen. Oh, and its quite effective against Gangsters too, most of them aren’t wearing body armor.

  • 22. ShMiller  |  December 9th, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    As long as Amos isn’t actually Canadian … think’ that’d make me puke.

  • 23. Amos  |  December 9th, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Sorry Merc, didn’t read your crap. I have a rule about engaging with imbeciles.

  • 24. Dammerung  |  December 9th, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.

  • 25. Amos  |  December 9th, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Hey you know what I do? I actually defocus my eyes as soon as I see his name on the top of the post to make sure I don’t accidentally read any of it, ha ha

  • 26. wengler  |  December 10th, 2008 at 1:37 am

    You can read the Armed Citizen in the NRA’s membership magazine all you want, but having a gun is much more about psychological security than actual security. Most times you will be unarmed when facing a situation where you would want a gun. However, using a gun to deter certain behavior can be highly effective.

    Your society can be armed and very violent, or unarmed and very violent. Just like it can be armed and peaceful or unarmed and violent(the Hutus didn’t need guns). Any civil conflict would involve a split in the military command, which would include materiel. So don’t fear, if you don’t have a gun now the side you are fighting for will have them. And if they don’t it is just you and 20 other guys about to be crushed.

    Get a handgun if you like range shooting, but don’t expect to ever use it in anger. Bullets get expensive in wartime anyways. I’d be less concerned about the gun and more concerned about the availability of ammunition.

  • 27. Manny The Mooch  |  December 10th, 2008 at 11:23 am

    My dear Americans! What will blowing away a repo man, a brother wage slave with a mortgage to service and family to feed achieve? Nothing! The only just thing to do is to seek out the bastards who got you all into this mess in the first place – the greedy Wall Streeters who dreamed up, “structured” and profited from all those CDO and CDS and other so-called “financial instruments”. Their bosses and “top” management who stupidly or greedily okayed their theft and encouraged more with their fat bonuses. Come the revolution lead will be spat and blood must be spilled!!!

  • 28. LatexSolarBeef  |  December 10th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Like the man said:

    “An armed society is a polite society.”

  • 29. Fissile  |  December 10th, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I’ll agree with the skeptics, most of the new gun owners are deluding themselves. Buying a gun at 40 years of age, and thinking it’ll help during a complete breakdown of society, is like buying a tool kit at Sears, and believing it’ll make you a master mechanic. I learned to shoot when I was 11 years old, most of my friends have military experience, we’re experienced hunters who work out regularly, we understand small unit operations. Despite our experience, my friends and I understand that we’d be toast if we went toe-to-toe with any NG unit sporting crew fired weapons. Forget about fighting off the Gov forces, most recent buyers won’t last 5 minutes up against me and my buddies. All your tofu is belong to us now.

  • 30. jlbraun  |  December 11th, 2008 at 9:27 am

    I’m a liberal in support of universal healthcare and the environment, against all foreign wars, and for gay marriage.

    I also own a semi-auto copy of the AK-47 as well as a high-capacity 9mm pistol. I participate in combat shooting matches, and have a concealed carry permit. I do not hunt.

    Just wished to speak up as a gun owning liberal. There are more of us out there than you think. If you’re a liberal thinking about buying a gun, come to thehighroad.us and ask around. We’ll answer your questions and get you pointed in the right direction.

  • 31. Merc  |  December 11th, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Amos – he’s got logic trouble. On the one hand, I’m an imbecile according the Amos. On the other hand, he must constantly inform everyone that I’m an imbecile. See this is where the fallacy is: If I am an imbecile, then one would pick up on that right away, ergo there’s no need to call me an imbecile.
    Thus (this is where Amos usually gets lost), by telling others that one is an imbecile, you Amos, are saying that the other readers are too stupid to pick up an imbecile, and thus insulting not just me, but the forum as a whole. Good job – you show the World real Neocon spirit, whose agenda is “If in doubt, insult, ignore, insult, ignore…wait why are we so unpopular? Insult, ignore….”

  • 32. Tom Lessoskallow  |  December 12th, 2008 at 3:09 am

    I have lived, travelled and hitchhiked across Europe, Russia and the US. But nowhere I have been has there been such paranoia regarding strangers like in the US. As anyone can attest who has travelled like me the truth is you shouldn’t be afraid of people but be afraid that they are afraid of you. And I believe that widespread gun ownership has contributed to the great American paranoia. And I also believe that people who are afraid of each other are much easier to keep down than people who trust each other. I believe the Government and any thinking person knows that as well. The bottom line: Divide and rule and gun ownership as an insurance against government is just as much an American illusion as endless credit. It’ll be awhile before Americans wake up to this reality but they will

  • 33. Jacqui  |  December 12th, 2008 at 4:55 am

    As a child in England I watched an endless stream of American Westerns on TV and I always wanted all the cowboys to shoot each other and let the Indians get their land back. Maybe my childhood wish may come true after all.

  • 34. codemaster7  |  December 13th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    @ Jacob

    John Lott would disagree with you, as well as the latest FBI study on guns and crime. Check your facts before spouting leftist hippy BS.

  • 35. Joe  |  December 14th, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Obama IS after our guns.

    “Yes We Can . . . Ban Guns”–Obama Announces Gun Ban Agenda Before The Final Vote Count Is In
    Friday, November 07, 2008

    Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign slogan, “the audacity of hope,” should have instead been “the audacity of deceit.” After months of telling the American people that he supports the Second Amendment, and only hours after being declared the president-elect, the Obama transition team website announced an agenda taken straight from the anti-gun lobby–four initiatives designed to ban guns and drive law-abiding firearm manufacturers and dealers out of business:
    http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Read.aspx?ID=4227

  • 36. Ted Scoucroft  |  December 15th, 2008 at 3:20 am

    That`s Great

    kill each other all illed jerks

  • 37. Adam  |  November 28th, 2010 at 8:14 am

    If a civil war did break out, don’t you think government forces would immediately target registered gun owners first?


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