No, wait. Stop laughing.

Yes, I really did go to a gun show. No, I was not forced at gunpoint by someone else.

See, here’s the thing: I’ve been wanting to get some pictures of guns for a painting I’m thinking about. Sure, I could go to Google images for photos, but (a) that’s taking someone else’s work and (b) one can’t be assured of finding exactly what one wants that way.

Anyway, I was driving down one of the main streets in town here yesterday when I saw a sign for a gun show.

So I went in.

Well, no. That’s not exactly true. First I did a quick wardrobe check to make sure I wasn’t wearing anything that would get me shot in such a venue. I wear a lot of snarky t-shirts when I’m not trying to dress like a grown-up, and some of them are pretty political (I know, what are the odds?) and would not go over well with the gun show crowd. But as luck would have it, I was wearing an over-sized denim shirt, which I figured would be unobjectionable. If I were anywhere but Colorado, my Birkenstocks might have been a problem, but here, even some Republicans wear them – though most Republicans don’t, to my knowledge, wear blue toenail polish…

I decided that I was probably safe.

It was…how shall I say this…interesting. From, kind of, a sociological perspective, I guess.

You know that 28% that still apparently approves of George Bush, no matter what he does? Well, I found them. They’re all at gun shows, apparently. And they all loves them some John McCain, too:

No, this is not Photoshopped. This is the only covert picture I took at the gun show, because I couldn't stop myself.

I do not like guns. Guns were intended for one purpose: killing someone or something. This is something that makes me exceedingly uncomfortable.

I do not own a gun, though for several years I was in possession of one that was foisted on me by my father when my parents left Los Angeles to move to Colorado. They moved away about one year after the 1992 riots, and my dad didn’t like leaving his little girl unprotected in the big city. I accepted the gun from him because it increased his peace of mind, knowing that I had it. It stayed at the back of the top shelf of my closet, behind lots of other stuff, for the entire time I had it, so I wouldn’t have to look at it. When I left California, I gave the gun back to my dad, and I am happy to say that I have no idea what he did with it after that.

Guns creep me out.

So you can probably imagine how I felt as I wandered around the gun show, trying not to look like a liberal.

It was a little weird.

Of course, everyone wanted to sell me a gun. Or ammo. Or various army-surplus paraphenalia, like ammo cans and MREs. Or medals or ribbons or badges from some war or another. Some with Nazi insignia. Really.

Obviously, I couldn’t just wander around the place taking pictures, even though that was what I desperately wanted to do. I think the, um, merchants would have rustled me out the doors right quick if I had done so, and I doubt my camera would have survived the experience.

After wandering around the floor once, I decided to go with the honest approach.

“Um, hi, I’m an artist, and I’m trying to get some pictures of some guns for a painting I want to do. Do you mind if I take pictures of your display?”

This was met with one of three responses:

  • “Yes, absolutely. Go right ahead.” Sometimes followed by, “Do you need to see different angles of the gun(s)?” or “Is there a particular type of gun you want a picture of?” These were the people who were gun enthusiasts. They were all about the second amendment, they were proud of their collections, and they were happy to have someone take an interest in the craftmanship of the different styles of guns.
  • “Um, I guess that would be okay. Just of the guns? But, please not of the people looking at the displays or anything.” Okay, I could respect that – and did. They didn’t know who I was, or what sort of art I was talking about, after all, and certainly I could understand their concern that their customers might not be wild about being photographed looking at weapons. Plus, of course, someone taking pictures at a gun show looks out of place. This is not a place where cameras are much in evidence. So, I kept it low key.
  • “No, I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to take pictures in here. I think that’s the rules of the convention place.” Really? I didn’t see any signs to that effect. And hey, why do all your guns have tags that say Not Legal in California, anyway?

Anyway, I took pictures where I could, and, as they say, got the hell out of Dodge.

But not before an earnest man in his mid-forties pressed an “Obama and the 2nd Amendment” flyer and a McCain/Palin sticker into my hands. “Really,” he said, “Make sure you read this. It’s important.”

I tossed the flyer. Second amendment concerns are WAY far down on my list of worries when it comes to presidential candidates, frankly.

But I’m still trying to come up with a good use for the McCain/Palin ’08 sticker….

jane doe