Commentary: Gun show brings in law-abiding masses

Richard Hoover

Big April 22-24 weekend at the packed Nation’s Gun Show, held at the Dulles Expo Center and attended by thousands of  white, black, Hispanic and Asian Americans. Young and old, there were  lovers holding hands, singles, parents and children — families buying guns, hauling ammunition to the parking lot.

In other words, this show is a model of American diversity in action, not some fabricated event where admission of this or that ethnicity must be carefully staged in order to produce the effect. Rather, there was endless room for law-abiding masses to voluntarily, if not joyfully, come together to celebrate their common enthusiasms, whether hunting, collecting,  competition shooting, home and self-defense, or the safeguarding of their Second Amendment rights. It was all very civil, even comradely, as equal opportunity and  pure American apple pie can be!

Not a few participants sported attire with poignant libertarian, if not patriotic messages in red, white and blue:

• Keep calm and carry.
• Keep calm and return fire.
• Violence may not be the best option, but it’s still an option.
• Happiness is a good blood trail (a reference to hunting, I hope).
• Tyranny response unit.
• Don’t tread on me.
• Molon labe (the ancient Greek taunt “Come and Take it”— exactly what the government must do if it ever wants to confiscate guns belonging to the fellow wearing it!).

Conversation is colorful, often learned and highly technical. Children may well be introduced to the likes of the model 1840 cavalry saber, aka as the “wrist-breaker”(“Little dears, this sword is so heavy that even the horses wrote letters to the Ordnance Department begging them to replace it with a lighter version — No, for God’s sake, please, please keep both hands on that grip, and keep the point toward the ceiling!”).

And all day long (and far beyond my poor powers of concentration), dealers and dilettantes argue such issues as how projectile velocity and impact vary according to caliber, composition, weight and propulsion.

Ultimately, talk centers on strongly suspected government efforts to shut down Americans’ rights to bear arms, to self-defense.

High on the complaint list, for example,  are Maryland’s attempts to ban the AR-15 rifle, defeated so far by a single federal appeals court decision. Dealers and weapons-transfer specialists maintain there is no case of Maryland crime, ever, involving a legally purchased AR-15.

Highest on the grievance list, however, was Hillary Clinton’s assertion last week that Americans have too many guns.  Well, there it is!  Were  she president, it was pondered, how would she have her way — by taxing guns and gun sales out of existence, by broadening prohibitions already in place, or by a mandatory registration leading to  eventual  confiscation? The mood here is stark: while patriotic Americans cherish obedience to the law, they will reject laws that make them slaves to a well-armed government.  And they  cite examples of such tyranny  starting with the ancients!

Two good Front Royal friends dropped in. It was the first gun show for one of them, a retired civil servant.  Both know the way the world turns, but  were agog, nevertheless,  at the passion, at the human, historical and weaponized spectacle on view in Chantilly. Could they imagine that such patriotic diversity, one which is matched every weekend in almost every state, could ever be brought to surrender its arms a la Australia or Great Britain?  They decidedly thought not…

Molon labe!

Richard Hoover, a retired Foreign Service officer, resides in southern Warren County.