I attended a gun show yesterday morning, just over a quarter-century after attending my first and only gun show. The first venue was located less than a mile from the current venue. Despite the passage of time, the memories of attending my first event remain surprisingly fresh in my mind. I still recall many of the people and conversations from my first event, as well as the sights, sounds and even the “feel” of that particular gun show.
Attending the event yesterday was like seeing an acquaintance I had not seen in 26 years. I’m certain you know the feeling I am attempting to describe. Perhaps it might be an old flame, or someone you once worked with, or maybe even a distant relative. Over time, you retain a mental image of that person, their appearance the last time you saw them, as well as their voice and even their demeanor. You remember them the way they were the last time you saw and interacted with them. Then, you meet them again and are awestruck by their subtle and not-so-subtle changes.
In the autumn of 1986, I recall listening to gun show attendees talking with the vendors. Most of the discussions revolved around hunting in the hills of northwestern Pennsylvania, selecting the best gun for hunting deer, turkey and other wild game. At that time, many of the attendees were talking about their previous year’s hunting exploits, comparing notes about the best hunting spots and boasting about the different ways they cooked the venison for their families.
Twenty six years later, the conversations were as different as the atmosphere at the event. Largely absent was the talk about hunting, venison recipes, and deer stands. I observed hundreds of men (and many women) of all ages slowly walking through the aisles created by the booths of gun vendors and survival items. I mingled with as many as I could, attempting to listen to their hushed conversations. I struck up conversations with more than a dozen attendees, and asked open ended questions to assess their moods and mindsets. Like that old acquaintance not seen for over two-and-a-half decades, the changes were stark and dramatic.
Over the course of three hours, I spoke with a total of fourteen men (attendees) and two vendors. I deliberately kept the conversations casual and the questions general. My primary questions involved asking the attendees why they were attending, and if they were going to (or already had) purchased anything. I posed my questions informally, as just another person at the event.
Every person I spoke to told me they were there to buy a gun, another gun, and/or look for bargains for ammunition. With the exception of one man, every person I spoke with said they were there to look at or buy weapons and/or ammunition for self-defense. The sole exception was not really an exception at all, as he stated that he already had all he needed for self defense and was there to purchase a more comfortable holster for concealed carry purposes.
I can best describe the mood of the people I spoke with was somber, although that might not be the best adjective to use.