Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Slow Death of Incrementalism and the Shift of Normalcy.

I purchased my first firearm, a Ruger 10/22, back in 1986 from a sporting goods store in a mall. I handed over my money, filled out a yellow form (back then, everything fit on the front), showed them my driver's license, and walked out with my purchase. There was no background check. The manager did not carry my rifle and ammunition to the exit; to the contrary, I ate lunch in the food court with a big white box that said "RUGER" in my lap and the bag containing my Ram-Line folding stock and 25-rd magazines next to my chair.

Shooters who didn't get into the whole "gun thing" before the early '90s will find this a bit shocking. No background check? Carrying a "pre-ban" weapon and magazines through a mall? Hey, the past is another country; they did things differently there. I mean, the mall in question had ashtrays.

By the same token, shooters of the generation before me will have wistful observations of their own. After all, they probably didn't have to fill out any forms when they bought their first gun. They may have even ordered it through the mail. From Sears.

People tend to accept as status quo whatever they're used to. A generation of American kids has grown up walking through metal detectors at school, their clear or mesh backpacks scrutinized for butter knives or aspirin bottles, whereas I remember the occasional deer rifle in the back window of a pickup truck in the senior lot. (There's another vanished icon in much of America; an unsecured rifle in an unlocked truck...)

What are gun owners now coming of age in California or Massachusetts going to consider "normal" and "reasonable" restrictions?


Anonymous said...

My brother bought his first gun in the local grocery store in about '77.

The threat of incrementalism destroying our freedom is a major part of why I have my Push The Envelope policy. Of course that policy has its risks...

Kevin said...

What are gun owners now coming of age in California or Massachusetts going to consider "normal" and "reasonable" restrictions?

Nobody owning anything that goes "BANG!"

The other day I had cause to visit a small hardware store in a rural Arizona town. At the cash register was a large glass-fronted display case full of ammunition; rifle, pistol and shotgun.

They also had a prominent display of air-rifles and ammunition for the same nearby.

I had the opportunity to use one of your classic lines again: "I love being in American-occupied America!"

Unfortunately, that landscape appears to be shrinking.

Baba55 said...

1951, my Fathers Senior year H.S. Yearbook showed him on the H.S. Rifle team, a ROTC member... another country altogether. Can you imagine a School District in America today, owning an arms room full of 1903's, 03-A3's and Winchester 52's not to mention the ammo to go with it?
Or having teachers who could show you how to field strip blindfolded the 03's, M1's etc? Teachers who had BTDT and were respected for it?

Anonymous said...

As teenagers in the late 70s-early 80s we would walk across and outside of town to the local plinking area carrying our .22s and shotguns. Granted they were cased, but it was still obvious what they were. Never had a problem, and believe it or not this was in central NJ. Now I have to search the truck before going back to visit family. Gawd forbid I get stopped and officer supertrooper spots a HP .22LR that fell out after a day of shooting with the kid. They'll lock me up and throw away the key for one of those evil kopkiller bullets.

As a matter of fact, I think we'll go blast a brick of those this afternoon so he grows up knowing how normal it is.

Word Verification = whambi - The sound made when the bullet hits the deer.

Anonymous said...

Word Verification = whambi - The sound made when the bullet hits the deer.


WV: "hanfet" = how custom gun parts are put together by rural Southern gunsmiths.

Anonymous said...

Yep, the shift in "normal" is exactly the problem we face, and it's been going on for a long time, and not just with firearms. How many generations have grown up with the norm of government assistance? The norm of witless education in government schools? It's insidious, it's everywhere, and it's a positive feedback loop.

Yeah, I remember when the big sporting good stores sold guns in their mall outlets. Amazing how there weren't hundreds of people being massacred in a hail of bullets back then. Hell, not just the sporting goods stores, but Monkey Wards and Sears. Hell, I remember when the Western Auto store carried guns and ammo.

A friend of mine likes to tell about how, as a teen, he used to ride his bicycle from his job to the range, with his rifle slung across his back. (Mid-to-late 60's, I think.)

And, blessed be the Colorado voters and Tom Mauser, here in Colorado we can reminisce about the days when we could go to the gun show, find a good private-sale buy, plunk down our cash and be finished.


Anonymous said...

I bought my first gun that wasn't a gift in a pawn shop in Lafayette, IN. I waited on the background check and then he handed me my awesome Colt Trooper MkIII, which I later foolishly sold for a Glock. When I moved to Virginny, I discovered "one-gun-a-month" when I purchased a Walther P22, and then to the horror of the state police tried to purchase a Ruger GP100 28 days later.

I've never bought a gun without a NICS check - I've never not filled out a 4473. But at the same time, I've grown up in a gun culture where concealed carry was accepted and common; which we didn't have in 1970. I have bought guns on the internet, and have shot in action pistol games that didn't exist in "the good old days".

So yes, while incrementalism sucks in one direction, sometimes the status quo isn't as bad as it looks.

Anonymous said...

It's not really shrinking,man. It's just that your getting fatter,and everytime you open your piehole you're sucking all the atmospere out of the landscape around you!

theirritablearchitect said...

"What are gun owners now coming of age in California or Massachusetts going to consider "normal" and "reasonable" restrictions?"

I dunno, why don't you ask Connie Du Toit what they might be?

Anonymous said...

The thing is that we're not really all that old. I can remember looking at all the goodies in the Western Auto in my town. I can also remember the local gun shop, where no one really batted an eye when a couple of 12-year-olds left the school a block away, walked in, and asked all kinds of questions about the Colt AR-15s on the wall. I can also remember when most people had enough sense not to offer their opinions on hunting animals that "didn't have a chance", where the hunters in question had decades of experience and thousands of hours logged at the trap range. Apparently everyone is an expert on "gun violence" today.

If it's incrementalism, then it must be in large integer steps, since we're talking about only a couple of decades. The basic nature of people hasn't changed in that time, it hasn't changed in the last century, and it hasn't changed in all of recorded history.

Tam said...


I really don't need to hear another defense of "Dead Kid Democracy".

"(Object X/Freedom Y) might be a danger to my children, so it should be banned!"

TheAxe said...

After sailing to the harbor in Baltimore, my grandfather walked into a hardware store and bought a .22 for $5. No background check or anything, Baltimore. He was 7 years old (1930's) and I still have that rifle. I live in Baltimore, I bought my first retail rifle in April, I had to fill out the forms and give them my license for the background check. I bought my first pistol in June and it was even worse. Even after the 4473 I had to wait 10 days for the state police to sign off on the forms. Knowing about my Grandfather, has put all those hoops in perspective for me. If one of my friends I'm trying to get into shooting wanted to buy a first gun, they would see all these hoops as normal. Thugs on the corners are buying stolen pistols same day no check for $200 from their hookup.

Anonymous said...

My first gun was a Hopkins and Allen double barreled 12 gage, bought for $5 from Al Wahlstrom up the road in Killingworth CT when I was 14.
Up until then I had to borrow guns from relatives, usually with said relatives standing by, watching and correcting while I shot.
I found out years later that all that expensive Winchester Mark III target ammo my uncle Ed had "Just collecting dust on the shelf" was purchased at considerable cost, solely for my tin can plinking.
When I was 16, I got an uncut Springfield '03, and Jim Augeri and I would plink in the woods with it and the 98 Mauser his old man had brought home from the war.
On Saturdays, we'ed sling the rifles over our backs and bicycle 20 plus miles to Blue Trail Rifle Range in Wallingford, shoot the 200yard range for a couple of hours, then bike home, maybe stopping at my cousin Cathy's house in Durham for lemonade.
The first government form I ever saw was when I sold the SKS I brought back from Vietnam, circa 1971.
I'm sure most Americans would be just as safe with firearms today as 20, 30, 40 years ago. Americans, but not Democrats. Different cultures, different people.

Anonymous said...

It was a shock for me, becoming part of the 'gun culture' in the late 1990s, reading about the various gun control measures enacted by the Feds. I knew the AWB was stupid, but I goggled at the implications of earlier legislation:

GCA 1968: You mean, I could just mail-order a gun? Like, one of those good, inexpensive FALs, back then? Seriously? Wait, you mean I can't buy a gun from someone from another state, even if we're in the same state? And what's this 'sporting uses' crap?

NFA 1934: Waitaminute - you could just go into a store and buy a Thompson? No tax stamp, no nothing?

And those Acts have made us all so much safer.

Some days, I think I was born 100 years too late.

the pawnbroker said...

tam, i just realized i left this comment this morning on the wrong post...sorry to take up double space.

wow...powerful observations, and a wake-up call at the same time.

our friends the 3's may be preparing for an explosive onslaught, while their (and our) new normal is being slowly whittled and shaped almost imperceptibly.

incrementalism has long been my cause and call...nearly opaque attacks on ffl's, ammunition, certain cosmetic and mechanical attributes...and often with the quiet acquiesence of some subgroups of gun owners.

so the 97's had better open their eyes a little wider and see that this new normal and the newer normal to come, are the real threat.


Anonymous said...

In World War II, some high school girls had marksmanship training AT SCHOOL, in case the Bad Guys came and landed, and started trying to make the U.S. into part of the Greater Reich.

Today, not only is there no marksmanship training for anyone, but if a student talks badly about the Bad Guys, it's a hate crime. No, we need sensitivity training to empathize with them.

Yup, incrementalism.

The Freeholder said...

"What are gun owners now coming of age in California or Massachusetts going to consider "normal" and "reasonable" restrictions?"

That, as far as I'm concerned, is the whole plan.

Anonymous said...

Memory lane (continued).

I grew up in Los Angeles. In the early '50's I often visited the Western Auto store about two miles North of LAX. Used my lawn mower cash to buy ammo for my Mossberg 22, I bought at the same store. After the ammo purchase, I'd bike back home to get the Mossy and bike through the neighborhood to Loyola Uni with ammo and rifle to plink at their ROTC range.

My dad taught me gun safety and how to be a gentleman. The man across the street taught me be a rifleman. Seems he landed on Iwo Jima a private; went up the Mountain a Corporal; came down the Mountain a Sergeant-and commander of what was left of his Marine company. (At least that was the story I heard the men tell as I sat quietly nearby listening to my heroes).

These days, nine year-old son and I go to the quarry together. Learn together. Shoot cans and water filled bottles together. Clean up our trash together. Smile the old smile together. It's the smile of free men.

Best to all,
Old Fart

Anonymous said...

This is a hobby-horse of mine. The "new normal" is always the starting point for "reasonable" regulations a generation later. On the evidence so far, there is and can be no long term stable compromise that the gun-banners will be satisfied with.

Having reached that conclusion, in principle I want gun regs rolled back. I'd like to see unlicensed carry in every state, and yes, machine guns legalized again. I realize that last isn't likely to happen soon, but at least I'd like to start repealing gun laws in reverse order.

Unfortunately a lot of people on our side have made their separate peace with reasonable regulations. The realists may well be correct that my wish list is never going to happen, but as a strategy, realism and holding actions are still doomed to a slow defeat.

Montie said...


For Christmas 1967, when I was 12, I got my first gun, a Winchester 190 Semi-auto that could handle .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle, accompanied by a Weaver scope. I later learned that my dad had gotten the gun and scope combo as a promo for some product he was selling in his convenience stores.

We sold a small amount of ammunition in our stores, mostly .22 Rimfire and a few shotgun shells. the next year we stopped selling ammo due to the '68 Gun Control Act. This proved to be a bonanza for me as we had to pull all the ammo from the stores which gave me a fairly large quantity of Remington .22 ammo of all sorts. I even still have some left!

The first gun I bought for myself was a pre series 70 Colt Government Model someone had sent off to some guy in California to have the ejection port lowered and flared, the hammer spur trimmed a little, and S&W K-frame adjustable sights added. I was 17, and paid $175 for it. My dad thought I paid too much. Oh, the guy who did the work on that gun? Armand Swenson.

Anonymous said...

Traveling by air to Indianapolis around '67 (I was a student at IU Bloomington), I brought my rifle with me. I walked on the plane and handed it to the stew to stow in a closet. She handed it back to me when I left.

No muss, no fuss, no terror at 30000 feet.

Anonymous said...

Here in Massachusetts they are now in the process of implementing a system where each shop has a fingerprint scanner. When you buy a gun your fingerprint is scanned and compared with a state database. In case the scanner can't get a useable image you're issued a PIN. No scan or pin, no gun (and no, out of staters cannot buy guns in Mass.) Then the gun is registered with the state online before you leave the store. Finally the can cannot leave the store without a trigger lock!

We also have an assault weapons ban, and a specail "high cap" lecense is needed for guns holding more than ten shots. Whether you get an handgun or not is at the personal whim of the police chief. Handguns must be only those approved by a special state inspection board. Only those handguns already registered in Mass by 1999 are grandfathered. Move to Mass after that and you can't take certain handguns with you.

Why is it I feel much safer in New Hampshire and safest of all in Vermont?

Crucis said...

Jed, I bought my first pistol---a High-Standard at a Western Auto. Revelation brand .22lr ammo sold for $0.55 for a box of 50. Revelation .22short sold for $0.45.

Hey, I just noticed, the keyboard no longer has the "cent" symbol. All my old typewriters had that symbol. Guess there isn't much need to indicate prices less than a dollar now.

Anonymous said...

Old fart: If we're lucky, someday Shooting Times will issue a book comprising all the "Ben And The Old Man" series from the early 70's.
I was on the G.I. Bill, carrying 16 credits, working an almost full time job during the week, and putting in 12 to 16 hours on the weekend breaking down sides of beef. With a new baby every 16 or 18 months to help steal whatever sleep I did find.
But I stayed awake long enough to read the issue cover to cover when it arrived, and the first page I turned to was the monthly story about the fatherless teenager and the crochety old widower down the road who taught the kid how to shoot, handload, and think for himself.
As much philosophy as sport, and I tried, not too unsuccessfully, to pass a bit of it on to my kids.
We had a nut-job murderer running around the neighborhood a few years ago, with a blood dripping kitchen knife in his hand.
He got bagged by a neighbor a few doors up the street, but if he had come half a block west he would have run into yours truly with a .45, and my teenaged daughter sitting next to a plate glass window, calmly reading her book, with a cup of tea at her left hand, and a loaded pistol at her right.
When the memory is brought up occasionally, she talks about how GOOD she felt, how relaxed, confident, free from fear.
Eldest son is a police detective. He actually got to work with his grandmother before she retired, so I suppose it's some stray Irish gene that resurfaced after several generations of teachers and small town businessmen.
He's killed two men in four years, saved the lives of three other police officers, and has a shootout every two or three months.
Three medals of valor. For reference, Hartford is a total armpit after 6:00 p.m. When they give New England the enema, Hoffa' be where dey put da tube.
That doesn't make him a hero or a saint to me. What impresses me is how unchanging he is. The same stand-up comedian, neither too aggressive or too timid. Street smart, brave, and fair.
He has two thing in his life that are absolutes. His job and his wife and kids. Or perhaps they're the same thing. Duty. A personal sense of honor. He's kind, but he will not bend.
The other two haven't been tested yet, but they're the same calm, cheerful, competent stuff.
I don't know how much of it they got from me, but I'd like to think some of it. You never know what small thing you do with kids will echo down the years.
When Eddie was in fifth grade, he had a touchy-feely teacher who required all of her students to draw the colors of their life, and assign one to each of the people in his/her family.
He drew me as dark brown. The teacher, looking at this very blond, blue-eyed little boy, was confused. She asked "Did your mother remarry an African-American?"
He said no, that was just the color I reminded him of. Like the color of dirt, calm and solid, always there. I'll take that one to the grave with me.
So shoot those cans with the little guy, clean up properly like any decent man would, and talk about men you admire. Let him know there are heroes. Some day you'll be one of them, when he does the same job with another little boy or girl. I miss it, and I envy you.

Rob K said...

I remember drooling over the guns in the JC Penny catalog. But on the other hand, I bought my first pistol with no waiting period.

Don said...

I've never bought a gun without a waiting period and a FOID requirement, much less 4473. But then, when Brady passed, I was 14.

My dad has a Mauser with a bright bolt (maybe nickel?) and he loves to tell the story of picking that gun out of a barrel of old Mausers in the True-Value hardware store that's still uptown. They were some ridiculous price, like $5 apiece, but that was the only one with the bright bolt and when he pulled it out, the gun counter guy quickly exclaimed, "Hey, that's not supposed to be in there!"
"Well, it was," dad replied, all of 13 or so, "because you just watched me look through here for ten minutes before I found it."

The guy thought it over for a minute, smiled a little and sold him the gun at the same price as the others.

(I have no idea whether the thing is really worth more, but I like the story.)

Chris M said...

My dad's 1938 high school yearbook described how, instead of finishing the planned swimming pool, a 24-station rifle range went into the school basement instead. When I was in middle and high school in the sixties, I shot on that range every Saturday night of the school year.

I bought my first rifle, a Marlin 81, from a neighbor for $15 at age 13. I used to bicycle across town with it on my handlebars to the Western Auto store where I bought .22LR ammo for $0.50 a box, then go with friends to "plink" just outside town. I bought my first pistol, a .22LR Erma "Luger," at age 16, just a year before Illinois passed its FOID law in '68.

My senior year of high school, a classmate who was on the rifle team got a Remington 40X for Christmas. He brought it in to show our vocational electronics class. The teacher's only comment was, "put that in your locker when the bill rings and leave it there until after class."

But my best memory was Dyke's Everything Store. I was in third grade and Dyke's was on my way home from school. A surplus store, he had barrels of old muzzle loaders, military rifles ranging from 1873 Remingtons to WW2 surplus, and a glass case full of handguns of all types. I used to stop in there and look at and handle those guns almost daily on my walk home from school. I learned a lot from that man as he'd tell me about the guns I was looking at.

Rio Arriba said...

Wanna talk about ancient? I got my first CCW when I was 17. In NYS no less. Yes, times have changed. The New Model Homo Sapiens are in charge now.

Anonymous said...

I remember hanging around the gun rack at the Western Auto in California. I got my first Daisy BB gun there.

I could walk a couple blocks to a vacant lot and shoot that thing all day long with a pack of other 8-10 year old boys and their BB guns.

Nowadays there are a very few places I can even buy ammo in Calif. I have a 6.8 SPC and I need to order my ammo through the mail. Same with my old .38 S&W I can't find ammo anywhere for it locally anymore.

Gunnies anymore are being marginalized by demographics and herded by government into manageable sectors.

Anonymous said...

"Gunnies anymore are being marginalized by demographics and herded by government into manageable sectors."

That's what they think, but many of us have more than a few names on our unwritten list of people whom we introduced--and those people are safely outside the demographic.



The first prize isn't a Cadillac, the second prize isn't steak knives, but third prize is that we all get fired from the job of citizen.


Dead Kid Democracy... I have been searching for a term like that for years. I am so stealing it.

Lucas Darr said...

Take heart. The upcoming zombie apocalypse will reset all this death by paper cuts.

Tam said...

I'm not certain that everyone having their brains devoured when the dead walk the earth is the solution for which I'm looking.

Jay G said...

Not every child in MA will grow up completely ignorant of firearms.

I'll make damn sure of that.

Anonymous said...

Ed Foster: My sister-in-law is a former Hartford police officer, so I know all about that armpit!
My stepson is also an Eddie. He just turned 12 last month, but he looks more like 8-9 (poor kid, mom is 4'13", and the sperm donor is maybe 5'6-7"). So we hit the indoor range yesterday like I promised, and he's shooting away with the H&R fourty-niner .22 revolver (it was his grandmothers, now my wife's, and it will be his when he's older) and the 10/22. One of the guys in the next lane compliments his shooting several times. Then we let him run a mag through my wife's new 92FS. I'm steadying his hands from behind, but the aim is all his. Eddie's first shot is barely on the paper. Same guy comments to my wife that the gun is way too much for him. Eddie then puts the next 14 rounds into a 5 inch group. Sweet.

WV=antler. As in what Santa's reindeer have.

JD said...

My kids are growing up in MA shooting AR-15 and WASA10. With Hi Cap mags. . .
I am sure somewhere Sara Brady cries every time I take the kids to the range and it brightens my day. . .

Anonymous said...

My last purchase about a month ago was a Ruger Standard .22, a Heritage Rough Rider .22 and a Colt Frontier Scout .22 complete with leather, eight boxes of .38 Special and a barely used .22 bullet trap for $400 cash.

No paperwork was signed.

No background check was done.

Just a private party sale.

Undocumented guns are a beautiful thing. In this economy their are some mighty fine deals to be had and I for one am investing heavily in the precious metal market of lead and steel.

Now I just need to find a good deal on a decent 1911 and an Rem 870 in 3.5 mag and I'm set till next year.

Tam said...

Were this still the free country it once was, you should have been able to do that at K-Mart with new guns.

Anonymous said...

Aye, and you are correct, but because we are more free then any other country, where else can you do this and not go to prison?

At least it can still be done.

That doesn't mean I'll give up the good fight.

Point taken, Tam.

Anonymous said...

"Waitaminute - you could just go into a store and buy a Thompson?"

You didn't even have to leave the house. They would mail it to you.

AztecRed said...

Today I went to buy pellets for an air rifle at Walmart and was carded. I can understand not selling the rifle to someone underage, but you can't even buy pellets if you're under 16. I think that's just a store policy, but it goes to show how things have changed, even in a gun-friendly state like Oklahoma.

the pawnbroker said...

tam, this is an old post so maybe this won't cause some irrelevant internecine warfare; delete if you think otherwise, but in rereading this post and comments i was stopped cold by this one; it makes the point perfectly and scarily.

"I've never bought a gun without a NICS check - I've never not filled out a 4473. But at the same time, I've grown up in a gun culture where concealed carry was accepted and common; which we didn't have in 1970. I have bought guns on the internet, and have shot in action pistol games that didn't exist in "the good old days".

So yes, while incrementalism sucks in one direction, sometimes the status quo isn't as bad as it looks."

this from someone who admirably endeavors to encourage and educate others about firearms ownership and usage...but is too young to realize how much has been lost, and too naive to know that there ain't no status quo...incrementalism works.

i too grew up in a culture where concealed carry was common, but it didn't have a name, no one gave a s--t if it was accepted or not, and the dossier that "licensed" carry now is would have been viewed like a hoover's list. i too purchased guns on the internet; we called it the classifieds; a regular arms bazaar in 1960's palm beach county. and shooting games? any time and any kind we could dream up out in the field near our homes.

i am appreciative of the efforts of the many to regain and retain as much as possible of what we once took so much for granted...incrementalism in reverse, if you is a fluid sea of change, ebb and flow, but mostly ebb in my lifetime. what will be the new "status quo"? time will tell.


Anonymous said...

Ed Foster: Your thoughtful and personal comments hit a home run with me.

Our eldest son called me 25 years ago after doing his duty in the Army: "Dad," he says, "I'm thinking about coming home to take the xxxx department exam." His mom and I had made a career there, and I guess eldest son saw something noble in it.

I tried to talk him out of it. Home was Los Angeles and not a promising place to live or work in law enforcement at the time.

Of course, eldest son ignored me. He graduated 1st in his academy class. Has been promoted a time or two. Is far better at the trade than I ever was, and will retire in a few more years.

Getting to do the dad stuff again with our nine year-old son is frosting on the cake. Something that keeps my seventy year-old carcass motivated, my heart filled with joy and honor of being a dad again.

Best to all,