Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How To Buy A Gun In PA

I owned a gun for 25 hours.

I am not a gun person. I was never around guns in my youth. While my parents and older sister were all in the Air Force as some point in time, my family never owned any guns. The first time I held a gun was in my late teens when I visited my older sister and she made me hold the automatic pistol she had for her occupation as a police officer. It wasn't loaded and it still scared the crap out of me.

For the past two months I've been in a relationship with Tara. She's much tougher than I am. She has tattoos, shoots guns, rides a motorcycle, owns a snake, and has scars from her bike wreck. She drives a truck with 4 wheel drive, curses like a sailor, can drink me under the table, and she scolds me often for being too much of a girl. Don't get me wrong, she has plenty of wonderful feminine qualities, too, but the aim of this description is to demonstrate how much tougher she is. And we're happy. Things have been going well, so I decided to buy her a present. That present was a gun.
Tara has two guns. They're her parents', but she had them with her at her apartment and would take them out shooting every few weeks. She took me shooting once, forcing me to have the first gun I ever fired be her 16 gauge double barrel shotgun. I preferred her .22 pistol, which allowed me to feel like a cowboy. A while ago, Tara went shooting with a friend. When they stopped at the store to buy ammo, Tara's eyes grew wide and she became smitten with a small pistol. The gun in question was a derringer, tiny and pretty, yet still a gun. She proceeded to rave about it, about its low price, about how cute it was, about how she wanted to buy it and get a belt buckle to hold it so she could wear it around. Being the astute person I am, I was able to pick up on the subtle clues and realize that this was something she wanted, so I decided to be a good boyfriend and buy it for her.
Having never before purchased a gun, I did some research online to prepare for the occasion. Pennsylvania no longer has a waiting period for firearm purchases. This system has been replaced by the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS). The Pennsylvania State Police runs a toll-free number that licensed gun dealers can call to have background checks run on prospective buyers, allowing 60% of purchasers to be approved within minutes. There are no permits needed, unless you plan on carrying it around with you. For my purposes, though, I needed nothing. I called up Chris Kaiser and we made arrangements to go on Monday afternoon.
When Chris Kaiser picked me up, he was excited to begin our endeavor. He was dressed in camouflage shorts and a camouflage sweatshirt. We drove out to the north hills and headed to Big Buck Sport Shop, just off of Rt. 79 at the Wexford exit. At this point, the butterflies in my stomach began to go crazy. I have always been more of the liberal, "guns kill people" type. They frighten me and I often wonder what the world would be like if firearms did not exist (especially while watching action movies. Imagine Terminator without guns). We stopped for a sandwich, and then headed up VIP Drive, towards the giant illuminated target that serves as their sign. There, in front of us, loomed our destination.

As we walked in, I breathed deep, inhaling the lodge-like atmosphere. Near the door were fishing supplies. The guns were located in the back right corner, farthest from the door. On the wall were hung the shotguns and rifles. Handguns were housed within the glass case, used guns to the left, new guns to the right. We slowly made our way back there with slow, unsure steps. I began inspecting the guns in the case. Semi-automatics, revolvers, and even antique single-shot pistols were laid out in a line, each with a tag specifying the make, model, and price. As I browsed, a clerk came out from the back and inquired if I could use any assistance.

"Yes. A friend of mine said that you have a derringer pistol for around $100. I'm looking for that."

He looked through the case and found the gun I was looking for. It had been obstructed from view by a stack of papers, but when he pulled it out it was just what I had been looking for. He showed me how it opened, etc., and I said "I'll take it." It was at this point that I found out how easy it is to buy a gun.

I filled out two forms, each roughly two pages long. They asked for my name, address, SSN (optional), driver's license number, and I had to verify that I was not an illegal alien, a legal alien, a felon, a fugitive from justice, nor shown to be mentally unstable. Then they took my driver's license and went to the back to run it through the PIC system. I was part of the lucky 60% and within minutes the clerk returned to the counter. He answered some questions I had regarding ammo sizes and gun questions in general, and rang me up. Then he asked if I had my concealed carry permit. I said no, and he quickly ran through what I needed to do to procure one. Then he tossed my gun in a bag and I was on my way. The entire affair took about half an hour. It was amazing.

Of course, Chris Kaiser and I couldn't stop playing with it in the car. I went directly to work when we got back, then to class after that. When I was finally able to head home, I had Chris Kaiser and a friend in tow. We pointed the gun at each other, at ourselves, cocked it, and generally did all of the things you're not supposed to do with a gun. Thank God I didn't buy any ammo.

Sadly, the revelry was not to last. Tara came to town the next day and I was forced to bequeath my new purchase to her. We registered it in her name, and I went back to being a non-gun owner. We did end up taking it out shooting though. Right after we transferred the registration and bought some rounds, we headed to the range. Now, the gun is really small. The barrel is only 2 and a quarter inches, and when I hid it in the fifth pocket of my jeans, only a small portion of the handle was showing. The diminutive size deceived us. We had forgotten to purchase ear plugs, but we went ahead anyway. Tara loaded it up, and took her stance. I stood behind her. As she pulled the trigger, a deafening BOOM emanated from the tiny firearm. It was by far the loudest gun at the range. My ears began ringing instantly. We both giggled like schoolgirls. She fell more in love with it, and then fell more in love with me.

Guns make everything better.