The first time I saw a gun in America was on the west coast. A marine in California proudly pulled this plastic case from under his armchair and said he wanted to show me his magnum.
I expected it to be scratched and dirty like most things you love, but instead there was this perfect, smooth piece of metal that looked like a new part of an Italian bicycle. This may have been the conversation that followed:
-I presume it’s not loaded
-Oh no. It’s loaded
-Yes. Always. There’s no point in having a gun if it’s not loaded
-I see, I said not seeing but interested
-In some states it’s illegal to have a gun in your possession if it’s not loaded
-So you can’t claim it wasn’t loaded if you get shot by the police?
-Exactly. I love those states
-It’s your own fault for getting shot because it should have been loaded even if it wasn’t?
-There’s no point in having a gun if it’s not loaded; it’s dangerous
-Guns not loaded are dangerous?
-Yes. When guns are loaded you respect them, but if they’re not always loaded then you get careless
-So that gun is ready to fire right now?
-Yes. Here, hold it
-You don’t like guns?
-I respect them
-If I fired this gun now, the bullet would go right through that wall and kill somebody walking past the house
-A bit rough on the person walking past the house
-I should really change bullets
-You have different types?
-Yes, I like animal bullets
-Yes, they leave a hole the size of pencil on the way in and on the way out
-And the other kind?
-You call them human bullets?
-Well they’re for shooting humans. If I shot you in the face, they would leave a hole the size of a pencil on your forehead and a hole the size of a plate where they come out at the back
-My whole head, I see. For animals you want a clean kill, you don’t want to mess up your dinner?
-Whereas for people, you’re probably not going to eat them, at least not if they’re just a perfect stranger walking past your house?
Currently based in Kansas City, English man Roldy, and his wife, both braver than I, went down the road to Independence, Missouri to find out what it’s like to play with guns. As you might expect with weapons that can kill and entertain, it’s funny.
Somewhat conversely, Midwestern satirical writer George Saunders was recently in Europe, including Dublin, and today writes his experience of coming to terms with the English on what is his first time in England. Very helpful.