That Man’s Holding a Gun

I grew up in a gun-free household. I’ve little practical knowledge or experience with firearms. After living in northern California for many years (where the prevailing attitude is that only bad people have guns – unless you’re a member of law enforcement), my family relocated to Washington state (where guns are far more typical in various hunting and entertainment capacities).

In cities there is an interesting mix of public gun stores that fall into two primary categories. The first are businesses established for the intent to buy and sell guns; the second are people who collect guns and at some point have to file for a collector’s permit to legally possess beyond a certain number. I don’t know the specifics so don’t get all excited if my details are incorrect.

I understand the collecting idea – people hoard all sorts of weird things. I have a…nevermind. In the country, people’s attitudes about guns is more relaxed.

Shortly after we moved to this community, we stopped at a gas station on a Saturday morning. My husband got out to pump gas and went inside the store to buy some beverages. I lollygagged in the car when it suddenly registered that the man standing last in line, behind the half dozen people waiting at the register, was holding a gun. A big gun. Not discreet. He had a rifle in his hands.

This seemed a smidge unusual to me.
I attempted to calm my central nervous system with the observation that the fellow was patiently waiting at the END of the line. It seemed unlikely he was there to perpetrate a crime unless he was a very polite bandit. People continued to walk in and out of the store and paid no attention to the fact there was an armed individual inside. Business was brisk.
All right.
I was new to the area. Could be this was normal behavior? Maybe people took their firearms out in public often. I don’t know. In California someone would have called an attorney already and the media would have sent out a helicopter with a camera-man dangling from the undercarriage (news story at 5).
Then another person got in line, holding a handgun. New Guy’s pistol was big enough to give Dirty Harry barrel envy. About then my husband walked toward the door, paused to exchange a few words with the guy holding the pistol. He exited and returned to the car.
He was amused by the expression on my face.
Apparently, along with the regular mini-market store inside the building, there’s also a lunch counter and a gun shop. In case you missed that…there’s a gun store inside the local gas station. This struck me as hysterical, ironic, and lunatic all at the same time. A commercial jingle ran through my head: come on in, fill up with gas, pick up some snacks for the kids, and snag a new revolver for your honey…
Patrons can order lunch at the counter, gas up their vehicle, grab some beef-jerky and a six-pack, and take a browse through the gun shop. But there’s only one register, and if you buy a gun you’ve got to get in line with the rest of the shoppers.
So when a crowd forms at the register, there might be a customer holding a firearm. That’s got to be a bit of a deterrant. I’d wager no one’s been dumb enough to try and hold up that gas station. I call it the Stop & Rob. As it turns out, the place is really convenient when I’m doing writing research. If I have a gun question and I can’t find the answer – there’s nothing these guys don’t know about firearms. No matter how obscure the question, someone in the gun shop knows the answer or where to look.

Lest you think we’re just weird – a neighboring community has a combination Radio Shack and donut shop. Stop in, buy some batteries and pick up a crueller. Okay, so maybe it’s the region, but I don’t think so.

Have any unusual shopping combinations in your local burg? Does it catch you off-guard to see people toting guns around? What sort of local anomalies have you spotted?

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  1. #1 by Angela Wallace on August 22, 2011 - 5:21 pm

    Haha, that is a funny story. I'd have been freaking out too. Can't say I've ever seen any combination stores like that. I've seen combination fast food places, like a Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC all rolled into one. Recently, I also saw what I thought was weird–drive thrus. Now, before you laugh at me, I don't mean the typical McDonald's drive thru. Drive Thru Starbucks. Drive thru Panda Express. Drive thru ice cream shop. Is everybody really on the go that much?

  2. #2 by Natalie on August 22, 2011 - 5:29 pm

    Loved the post. I would have likely dialed 911 and had the place surrounded in 2.5 assuming there was a robbery taking place.I live in Canada where guns laws and gun restriction is insane! No one walks around with a firearm unless it's hunting season and even then, certainly not into a convenience store. I'd have freaked! Quite possibly I would have tackled him thinking of all the lives I was saving. LOL.

  3. #3 by Lesann Berry on August 22, 2011 - 5:38 pm

    I think there are all kinds of drive-through conveniences that I didn't realize people needed. Of course I'm lazy enough to use them most of the time, but the one of my favorites was the drive-through dry-cleaning…watching people drag hangers filled with clothes in and out of their car windows…tsk tsk.The Stop & Rob has to be one of my favorite weird combinations. Small towns usually have odd hook-ups cause it saves on expenses to share space, but still…certain things just don't seem to go together well.

  4. #4 by Diana Murdock on August 22, 2011 - 6:30 pm

    Great post! I'd be a little nervous around that, too. Being here in Northern Idaho, though, that wouldn't be unusual. Hunters abound here. Not unusual to hear gunshots around my house – unnerving, but not unusual. Kids can start the driving process at 14 as well (I guess its from all that tractor and ATV experience they have). As far as odd combo stores…we have a place where you can go bowling and then tan. How convenient!

  5. #5 by Angela Orlowski-Peart on August 22, 2011 - 9:29 pm

    I've never been exposed to guns and I'm sure my reaction would be pretty severe. I would turn around and run to my car, then drive away. But I also understand it's not the gun, as an item, but a person that holds it, that you need to worry about. Nevertheless, I would feel out of place in that area.

  6. #6 by Lesann Berry on August 22, 2011 - 9:58 pm

    Diana, your comment reminded me of a sign I've passed in a little town: Videos, Saw Sharpening & Tanning. Talk about covering the bases, eh?Since I'd spent so little time around firearms, my comfort zone has been broadened by the experience.

  7. #7 by Naomi Bulger on August 22, 2011 - 10:56 pm

    I never got used to the proliferation of guns when I was living in America. I find the cultural adherence to "the right to bear arms" quite fascinating in a contemporary context, but frightening too. I remember driving through a small town on Route 66 (west, but I can't remember exactly where), my friend and I saw a sign advertising a "back to school" sale at the gun shop!

  8. #8 by jennifer tanner on August 22, 2011 - 11:03 pm

    I spent my high school years living in a small rural town where gun racks on pickups were a common site. Guns freak me out, but my husband loves them.The only strange combo I can think of is laundromats with bowling alleys or bars. In my "world" the ideal combo would be a hair salon with a knife sharpening service. I get a haircut every six weeks, which would be perfect timing to get my knives professionally sharpened. 🙂

  9. #9 by Megan nafke on August 23, 2011 - 2:21 am

    I'm from northern California. I so get what you mean about, only the bad guys having guns. My mom didn't even let us have water guns in the summer.I hadn't though about trying gun shops for information. Next time I have a gun question I know where to go. Great advise!

  10. #10 by elenaaitken.com on August 23, 2011 - 10:33 pm

    Great post! I giggled. A lot. I too live in Canada and guns are so locked down here it's almost impossible to take one out hunting. that being said, I grew up with a dad who loved his guns (locked case and all) and I'll never forget when I asked my mom what she got Dad for their twenty-fifth anniversary and her answer was, "Oh, I got him the cutest little handgun. I think they call it a glock. I'd like to have it engraved."Um…really?Great blog!

  11. #11 by Tameri Etherton on August 24, 2011 - 2:26 am

    Wow oh wow! Guns freak me out. I tried to ban them in the house (toy guns for my son), but he would just take a carrot and say, 'bang bang mommy!'. Ugh. Now he's got a bunch of Nerf guns and air soft guns, but I still don't like them.I would've been completely freaked by that guy standing in line. I probably would've texted my husband – get out! There's a guy with a gun!And he would've come out of the store laughing at me because I'm such a nut.

  12. #12 by Lesann Berry on August 24, 2011 - 3:27 pm

    Naomi – A "back to school sale" at the gun shop just has a lot of negative associations, doesn't it? Funny how we mix ideas without really considering the impact.Jennifer – There was a time I'd have LOVED a laundromat with a full service bar. Man, I'd have had some cleeeaann clothes.Megan – I've had great luck with gun store staff answering questions. Always helpful, very knowledgable and can spot us novices a mile away. lolElena – The perfect anniversary present…there's a story in there, "just the cutest little glock". Tameri – My husband did laugh at me, he's very comfortable around firearms. I get the carrot thing too, I've given up and let the wee one play with toy guns in the hopes he'll get over the fascination while he's still little.

  13. #13 by Tammy on November 5, 2011 - 10:49 pm

    In my neck of the woods, we tend to have bait shop/something-else combos.Bait Shop/DeliBait Shop/FirearmsBait Shop/Convenience StoreI'm always a little leery of the Bait Shop/Deli combo as they tend to package the red wigglers and potato salad in the same kind of containers.

  14. #14 by Lesann Berry on November 8, 2011 - 3:55 pm

    Now bait shops are probably worthy of their own blog post. I've had my share of bizarre events take place in bait shops. One of the best (read bizarre here) I've seen was in Tennessee…I may have to write about that.I would be leery of eating ANYTHING that came from a bait shop. People are, you know…unpredictable when it comes to packaging. Good call on nixing the potato salad.

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