The dangerous evolution of the ‘gun nut’

When I was a young man growing up in rural Oregon, there was a term for people like me: gun nut. By my 20s I had a sizable collection of rifles, pistols and shotguns. Some people I knew had a “pre-64” Winchester, a rifle renowned for its quality. Or they had a Browning Auto 5, a beautiful shotgun. A friend had 10 of those in various gauges. But gun nuts today are a different breed entirely. When they talk about guns, they don’t get into describing graceful lines, tight grain wood or immaculate bluing. At gun stores today what I hear praised is firepower that comes out of black plastic and steel. And these weapons are not for hunting, they’re assault rifles sometimes called “modern sporting guns.” The kind of sport they’re good for is not spelled out. One of the gun stores I visited recently boasted a back wall lined with assault-style rifles, pistols and defensive shotguns, all black except for a choice few in hot pink “for the ladies.” The staff mostly wore black as well. Their T-shirts for sale featured some amalgam of the American flag and warnings such as “Don’t tread on me” and “MOLΩN LABE,” an ancient Greek phrase roughly meaning “Come and take them.” Everybody — and I mean staff and other customers — was packing holstered pistols. I felt out of place and time. In my sleepy Oregon town, sentiments like this don’t stop at a gun store. A trip to the […]

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