Something in the air

BY
Hagmann P.I.
ON
October 15, 2012

By Douglas J. Hagmann

I attended a gun show yesterday morning, just over a quarter-century after attending my first and only gun show. The first venue was located less than a mile from the current venue. Despite the passage of time, the memories of attending my first event remain surprisingly fresh in my mind. I still recall many of the people and conversations from my first event, as well as the sights, sounds and even the “feel” of that particular gun show.

Attending the event yesterday was like seeing an acquaintance I had not seen in 26 years. I’m certain you know the feeling I am attempting to describe. Perhaps it might be an old flame, someone you once worked with, or maybe even a distant relative. Over time, you retain a mental image of that person, their appearance the last time you saw them, as well as their voice and even their demeanor. You remember them the way they were the last time you saw and interacted with them. Then, you meet them again and are awestruck by their subtle and not-so-subtle changes.

In the autumn of 1986, I recall listening to gun show attendees talking with the vendors. Most of the discussions revolved around hunting in the hills of northwestern Pennsylvania, selecting the best gun for hunting deer, turkey, and other wild game. At that time, many of the attendees were talking about their previous year’s hunting exploits, comparing notes about the best hunting spots and boasting about the different ways they cooked the venison for their families.

Twenty-six years later, the conversations were as different as the atmosphere at the event. Largely absent was the talk about hunting, venison recipes, and deer stands. I observed hundreds of men (and many women) of all ages slowly walking through the aisles created by the booths of gun vendors and survival items. I mingled with as many as possible, attempting to listen to their hushed conversations. I struck up conversations with more than a dozen attendees and asked open-ended questions to assess their moods and mindsets. Like that old acquaintance not seen for over two-and-a-half decades, the changes were stark and dramatic.

“Something’s coming”

Over the course of three hours, I spoke with a total of fourteen men (attendees) and two vendors. I deliberately kept the conversations casual and the questions general. My primary questions involved asking the attendees why they were attending and if they were going to (or already had) purchased anything. I posed my questions informally, as just another person at the event.

Every person I spoke to told me they were there to buy a gun, or another gun and/or look for bargains for ammunition. With the exception of one man, every person I spoke with said they were there to look at or buy weapons and/or ammunition for self-defense. The sole exception was not really an exception at all, as he stated that he already had all he needed for self-defense and was there to purchase a more comfortable holster for concealed carry purposes.

I can best describe the mood of the people I spoke with as somber, although that might not be the best adjective to use. Pensive, perhaps, with a “somber” overlay, as if they were leaving a funeral home after paying their respects to someone they once knew. In unrelated conversations, three of the men, each appearing to be on the trailing edge of their fifth decade of life, stated that they could feel that “something’s coming,” although did not elaborate on what they felt that “something” might be.

It is here that I stress the importance that none of the people I spoke with seemed to relish the thought of meeting that “something” head-on. None were looking forward to doing battle and even exhibited a reluctance – even sadness – about having to worry about being prepared. At one point, I recall thinking that I’d seen happier people at the DMV. There was no talk of specific politics, political parties or policy, the upcoming elections, and not the least bit of discussion about race or national origins. The “something” they were feeling seemed much bigger than that, and I felt it as well. There was something very ominous in the air, and it was almost tangible.

Quiet urgency

Each of the attendees I spoke with seemed to telegraph a sense of quiet urgency. It was not what they said, but how they said things. This quiet, determined urgency was reflected in their serious, focused demeanor.

I observed five of the men purchase long guns for home defense while eight others bought additional ammunition. I lost track of the man in search of a holster, but suspect he found what he needed based on the inventory at this event. Everyone appeared to be making purchases.

From jerky to survival foods

A quarter century ago, I remembered stocking up on beef jerky from one of several vendors. Yesterday, the beef jerky booth attracted some people, but fewer than I recall. Instead, one of the larger booths was staffed by the operators of a survival store, with long-term storable foods and water purification systems stacked high and deep. Their business appeared brisk, and I watched a half-dozen people leave with large containers of emergency food.

Before leaving, I spoke with two vendors on opposite sides of the venue. Both reported brisk sales at the show as well as at their respective stores. Both said they had seen their sales of handguns, long guns, and ammunition climb rapidly over the last five years. I asked both what they thought was behind the increase in sales. One of the older men was quick with his response, stating, “well, the country has changed, and not for the better.” I then asked him when it had changed. After a brief pause of reflection, he replied, “when ‘normal’ people started waking up to the fact that we’re a country ‘out of control.’” He added that the 2001 attacks might have gotten people’s attention, but the larger threat is “something else entirely, something from within. People can feel it.”

Yesterday, I not only saw it, I felt it as well. It’s not 1986 anymore.

HAGMANN P.I. (Doug Hagmann)
Private Investigator for over 35 years. TV Host, Radio Host and Author.
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