I am getting in touch with my inner gun owner, that primal part of my reptilian brain that says “I must weaponize.” Blame it on the Obama administration, I say. The president’s proposals of firearm abatement got me thinking: If I don’t get to a gun store soon, there won’t be anything left for me. So I joined the big rush and visited three gun stores last week but, dang, they were each nearly empty. I was too late. The gun nuts beat me to the cache.

But first let me tell you about all the times I did not buy a gun. I did not buy a gun after I was mugged at gun-point late one night in Washington, D.C., in 1973. I did not buy a gun in Detroit in 1978, not even after the neighbors had a gun fight across the street that awoke us at 2 a.m., nor did I get a gun in Kansas City in 2005 following an after-school gun fight at the corner across from our house when my youngest daughter and I were in the back yard.

But I did buy a 9mm Glock after a 1990 “home invasion”; some drunk wandered into the house and collapsed on the sofa. He was uninjured; otherwise we might have faced a personal injury suit. That was followed some weeks later by a home robbery when we were away. So I got a gun. I kept it about five years, just long enough to know how to use it well with absolutely no occasion to ever use it except at the gun range. I sold it to a police officer who was looking for a back-up weapon. Presently I own a 12-gauge shotgun, inherited from my father. What I ended up buying last week were some shells to put in it; my daughter wants to shoot skeet.

One iconic-looking gun store owner greeted me. He was packing a Browning M1911 .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol tucked inside a leather Galco-like MCII Miami Classic II shoulder holster. That’s just a guess; I really don’t know all that much about guns.

I did notice the holster system included dual right-side carrier sleeves securely holding a pair of loaded magazines in a horizontal position, eliminating the need for a potentially cumbersome retaining strap. It seemed to be one of the newer ergonomic designs (just another guess), one that permits fast one-handed magazine retrieval for quick switch-outs, always a welcome factor in a life-defending scenario where mere seconds may make a difference.

He had two rifles and only four revolvers , all .32 Smith & Wesson personal defense snubs, for display only. All the assault rifles were gone; short-barrel shotguns all sold out. He had outstanding orders but he didn’t know when to expect any new inventory. Thanks to the president, he told me, he’s had the best two months in thirty years of business. Most of his sales, he said, were to first-time buyers.

The next store was only a few miles on, but it wasn’t a proper gun store. It specialized in Civil War costumes for re-enactors. It was bristling with bonnets, hoop skirts, uniforms (North carefully separated from South) and a few black-powder muskets, along with a working replica 1855 .58 caliber Springfield, capable of firing three minie ball rounds a minute in well-trained hands. He also sold a few sporting rifles, but he too had experienced a run and there wasn’t much left. He had heard that 16,000 people swamped a southern Missouri gun show on Saturday just the week before.

Still unarmed, my last stop was a national chain sporting goods store, running shoes and the like, that also had a gun counter. I had to ask for a clerk who turned out to be a young guy who knew even less about guns than I. The inventory was down to two 12-gauge three-shell pumps and four air rifles. Two of the air guns were pricy break-barrel loaders that could push a .177 alloyed pellet down a rifled barrel at 1,200 FPS, one a nitro-piston with scope, and one a modest variable pump spring-release with a top velocity of about 600 FPS on eight pumps. At least I think so.

I do know there is no real conclusion to this piece, and certainly none that will satisfy both sides facing control issues around firearms. But it is troubling, this sprint for personal weaponry, seemingly government-induced. I did not buy a gun last week, but I appreciate the right to own one if I wish, and I well understand the impulse for gun ownership. Like our other rights, it is one that should be secure.

Russell E. Saltzman is dean of the Great Plains Mission District of the North American Lutheran Church , an online homilist for the Christian Leadership Center at the University of Mary, and author of The Pastor’s Page and Other Small Essays . His previous On the Square articles can be found here .

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Gun stores running low on weapons as sales surge, owners say

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