I’ve been offered the sale of a handgun three times.
The first was in the early 1980s when I lived in North Twin View Heights, a housing development outside of Solon.
I was having breakfast at the nearby Vern’s Lakeside Cafe, a small restaurant run out of a converted mobile home. The sign out front boasted hot food and fresh bait. Inside, the décor gave new meaning to the expression “greasy spoon.” Vern lived in the trailer with his wife and half-dozen children who often ran about half-dressed or in diapers needing changing.
Despite my rather despairing description of the place, I ate there once or twice a month. The food actually was fairly good and they did manage to clean the plates and service ware if nothing else. Once at dinner the waitress offered that a meal I had ordered included the soup of the day or a salad. I asked her what kind of soup it was, and she responded proudly, “It’s soup de jour, sir, it’s a French soup, Vern made it.”
On one particular morning while I was waiting for my order Vern came by and tossed a couple of snub nosed thirty-eights on the table and asked if I wanted to buy either. One was $50 and the other was $75, more expensive because the serial number had been scratched off.
The second time was a few years later.
A buddy from Chicago, Jim, was visiting and we had gone out to the unofficial shooting range that sprang up on a back road to Amana. The place is now regulated but back then it was wide open to whoever wanted to use it however with whatever. For targets people often dragged out old appliances and even a car.
We were taking turns with the Glock G20 Jim had brought when a man approached who can only be described as an ex-Hells Angel badly in need of a barber, a dentist, a laundress and a dietician. Fat and clad in dirty clothes, his hair was long and dirty, and his remaining teeth capped with gold.
He approached carrying a battered paper sack.
“That’s a nice little pop gun you got there but maybe you’d be interested in a real weapon,” he said while reaching into the sack and producing a Smith and Wesson 29, the Dirty Harry gun. He offered to sell it to us for $500 because he needed some money before his parole violation hearing. When it became clear we weren’t interested, he said he had one other piece for sale and reached into his back pocket and produced a zip gun. Looking like a dime store cap gun, he proceeded to list its finer points: homemade so it couldn’t be traced, no safety so it was great in a bar brawl and it was mostly plastic so it would escape detection by a metal detector.
The third time came about after Andy, a subscriber to my newspaper, called and took issue with a column I had written in favor of more gun control. Unlike the ex-biker, I knew Andy to be a fine, upstanding citizen in the community. His argument was that there were already plenty of gun control laws in effect and there was no need to enact any more rules.
To make his point he asked me to accompany him to a gun show being held in nearby Cedar Rapids. He offered to provide me with $400 and challenged me to go to the show and buy a handgun without showing a permit.
So off we went and sure enough when I offered to buy a 9mm Luger I was turned down when I couldn’t produce papers. As I was turning away with Andy gloating over my shoulder the guy next to me said, “Hey buddy, if you want a Luger I have one in the car I can sell you right now in the parking lot without a permit.”
When I listen to the gun debate I often hear gun advocates say it’s their right to own guns. But what about my right to not be shot with a gun sold by someone that thinks there is recipe for soup de jour, needs cash to keep from returning to jail or runs a retail business from the trunk of a car?