Living here in Allentown

..and buying a gun

Back in late September, when my bank stocks began to tank — slowly, then all at once, as Hemingway described going broke — another wall in my life began to crack, as rumors of break-ins rattled my peaceful neighborhood in Allentown, Pa. The first indication that something was going on was the Crime Watch sign that suddenly appeared on the utility pole a block from my house….

…Still, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, and a few weeks later I called my friend Jimmy, a gun enthusiast, and asked him to take me along to a firing range “just to see.” He brought two handguns, each in a locked metal box, and showed me how to use them. The noise in the indoor range was frightening, even though I was wearing the same ear protectors as construction workers using jackhammers. But more unnerving were the other shooters. The man in the adjacent booth had set his target at 15 feet and was firing with a coolness and precision that chilled me….

…“You want a revolver, to start,” Jimmy said. I pointed to a dull pink Charter Arms revolver with a two-inch barrel: the Pink Lady. It looked like a toy. Jimmy laughed. “You don’t want a pink gun.”

I watched the woman at the counter next to me test the feel of several Glocks while the young girl with her thumbed an electronic game. Then finally I picked out a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, “the gun I started with,” the clerk said. I handed him my driver’s license and filled out the paperwork. He left us to run my license number through a criminal-records system called QuickCheck. Two minutes later I was qualified and, between gun and ammo, $762 poorer.

It’s a surprisingly evenhanded essay (for the New York Times), but why would someone be frightened by precise shooting? Imprecise shooting is a lot scarier.


About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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