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More Than Political Difference: Lefty Goes To The Gun Show

  • Ben Hayward
  • Mar 8, 2017 10:29AM

I’m staring at a hot pink AK-47. At least, I think it’s an AK-47. My gun knowledge is woeful but what I’m looking at seems to be a Barbie dream version of the gun I have seen so often on TV. The woman behind the table looks at me and asks if it’s for my mother or my girlfriend. I tell her neither, and she purses her lips and moves on to the next customer – even if I wanted that gun, I’m not sure she would have sold it to me. This is my first interaction at the Firing Pin Enterprizes [sic] Gun Show in Cottonwood, Arizona - things were about to get weird.

Cottonwood is a town of 11,000 in Yavapai County, a community bolstered by the nearby tourism of Sedona and its signature red rock, the real-town proxy to Sedona’s tourist-catered layout. Cottonwood is also home base for the burgeoning Arizona wine industry, with sampling houses lining the main drag. It is a bizarre mix of small town Southwest and West Coast hipness, straddling the worlds between Walmart and small-yield vineyards. But I’m not in town for the wine, or the Tuzigoot National Monument, or the exceptional tex-mex (though it took several margaritas to process what I experienced), but instead to attend my very first gun show.

A gun show is the wild west of firearms retail in America, as most states (Arizona included) do not require background checks to purchase a gun at a show. Only licensed dealers need to track their sales and charge tax, as a big man with a handlebar mustache and wide blue suspenders tells me as I admire his collection of old carbines. At the gun show, anything goes – you can buy, trade, or simply mill around and talk shop with fellow 2nd Amendment-heads, and there are lots of those around. The Cottonwood show boasts 95+ tables, selling everything from original Colts to shiny-new AR-15’s, and each one is three people deep with curious patrons.

I’m intimidated, to say the least.