Yup. It wasn’t my intention when I started writing at Intelligent Discontent to be cranking out post-after-post on gun violence. Circumstances seem to warrant it, though. The proposed, controversial Missoula ordinance to expand background checks for all gun sales and transfers is the latest catalyst. That, and the killing of college students at Umpqua Community College, NAU and Texas Southern within the last week.
I can’t believe it’s been 16 years since I got a call from ABC News to track down the guy who sold the gun to Buford Furrow Jr. Furrow had just shot up a Jewish daycare center in Grenada Hills, Calif., wounding two adults and three kids. Later that day, he shot and killed a Filipino mail carrier.
I was a freelance camera operator and stringer for ABC. I’m vague, these many years past, on the details of the gun purchase. Even the New York Times isn’t exactly sure how the Glock ended up in Furrow’s hands. Anyway, I was sent to Kalispell and Columbia Falls to find the dealer although I believe the gun in question had been sold to Furrow at a gun show in Spokane.
Turns out the dealer, whose name escapes me, was at the big gun show in Missoula. So it’s back to the Garden City where I pick up a producer friend of mine and it’s off to the Adams Center.
We buy tickets at the door and cruise in. Since the organizers probably thought we were doing a feature piece on the show for a local station, they pretty much left us alone.
We found the dealer but were a little late. ATF agents had been there before us and confiscated all his guns. He sat at his empty table alone with a forlorn look on his face. He did not want to talk to my producer.
Soon we were surrounded by a herd of pissed-off organizers and other gun enthusiasts accusing us (media types, I guess) of anti-gun bias and slanted reporting. They told us to leave but I get kind of obstinate in these situations and figured since it was a public event and I’d bought a ticket, I could stay. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed (that being my producer, Jim) and he reasoned that being heavily out-armed, we should exit the show. We were escorted to the door.
The point of this anecdote? First, Furrow was a convicted felon with a history of mental illness but was still able to buy a Glock at a gun show. Second, the show’s organizer, Hayes Otoupalik, was one of the guys who confronted us at the dealer’s table. He’s been referenced in a recent Missoula Independent story and the blog Reptile Dysfunction.
One would think a table at the show that could facilitate background checks might keep everyone happy but Otoupalik says gun buyers will go elsewhere instead of submitting to “the hassle and expense,” as the Indy reports. The writer adds:
Background checks cost up to $25 in fees, plus a few minutes of paperwork, and some customers oppose the federal system on principle.
Otoupalik says the proposed ordinance requiring background checks will “kill the Missoula Gun Show. It’s going to be dead.”
If the Missoula show organizers refuse to do background checks and it’s forced to close, well, I’d prefer to mourn a gun show than a classroom full of kids.