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Friday, December 21, 2012

At Least I Have A Gun

Boy, was yesterday a lousy day.

It all started on my drive to work.

I was minding my own business, driving down the highway, when in my rearview mirror I saw the blue lights flashing. I pulled over, kept my hands on the steering wheel, and tried to remember what I learned about the Fourth Amendment in law school.

The officer approached my car, all business-like, and asked to see my license and registration. In my sweetest voice, I asked him what seemed to be the trouble. He said I didn't seem to have had my car inspected recently - the stickers on my plate were the wrong color.

I handed over my registration.

He compared my home address to the address of the Town Office that had issued my registration. Then he started writing me a ticket.

I sputtered out a series of questions that boiled down to "what in the world am I being ticketed for?"

Driving in an improperly-inspected, improperly-registered car, he told me. Fix it by tomorrow, he told me, or I'd get an even bigger ticket next time. Cars like mine aren't allowed on the roads, he told me.

I was already late for work, but I didn't want to be driving an illegal car for one minute longer than necessary. I headed to the "correct" Town Office. I was operating on borrowed time, so I really wanted to drive fast. The speed limit, however, was 35MPH the whole way. I went a risky 40MPH.

I also wanted to kill two birds with one stone and call a mechanic on my drive to Town Hall so that I could set up an appointment for an inspection. But in Maine, you're not allowed to drive while you're talking on a handheld device.

After sorting out the registration and inspection issues, I headed to work. But then I realized how hungry I was. And how badly I needed comfort food.

What I really wanted was a decadent grilled cheese. I headed to the grocery store. I was looking for my favorite raw-milk French cheese. Not seeing it in the deli case, I asked the man behind the counter where it could be. He said probably the closest shop I could find it was in France. Unpasteurized cheeses aged less than 60 days are illegal to import, he explained. Two people died from the bacteria contained in such cheeses in the past 15 years, so the U.S. banned the cheeses altogether, he elaborated.

Hungry and fuming, I left the grocery store. As I exited, I realized I was right next door to the pharmacy, so I figured I would pick up some Sudafed for my head cold. I grabbed a box and went to pay. The check-out lady with acrylic nails shaped like Christmas trees looked me up and down and asked for some identification. "What do I need to provide identification for?," I asked. She haughtily responded that drug dispensaries (like Rite Aid/CVS/Walgreens) have to ask for id in Maine anytime someone is trying to buy a "drug" that can be used to home-manufacture methamphetamines. I showed her my layer of lingering pregnancy weight and my 401(k), and threw my driver's license at the register.

I was getting more worked up by the minute. I decided to do something productive with my day to make myself feel better.

I called in sick to work and went home to get some trash we'd been meaning to take to the dump forever. I loaded it into my car and drove to our town's "transfer station," which is a fancy way of saying dump. I backed up my car, opened the trunk, and was greeted by a shifty teenager trying to assume an air of authority. "Sorry, ma'am. I can't let you transfer those goods at this station unless you've got a ticket to do so." I NEED A TICKET TO THROW OUT SOME TRASH AT THE TOWN DUMP? "Yes, ma'am, I'm afraid you do. The tickets are issued at the Town Office down the street so we can keep track of who's transferring items and control our costs." I shoved everything back in my car and decided to let my husband deal with it.

I thought about going to visit my friend, Jill, in the hospital. First, I called her girlfriend, Jody, to see if the timing was okay. Jody told me Jill was actually toughing out her kidney stone at home -- they couldn't afford the hospital visit because Jody's health insurance doesn't cover domestic partners who couldn't prove they'd been in a civil union for more than 5 years.

By then, I'd given up and accepted the fact I was going to need some help calming my nerves. I thought about buying some marijuana, but that's not legal in my state because just imagine the havoc that an incredibly chilled-out person with a case of "the munchies" could cause. I decided I'd go to our local tavern for a glass of wine.

I bellied up to the bar and asked for a Merlot. The barkeep looked me up and down and asked me for some identification. I asked him if he was related to the check-out lady at Rite Aid. He said he wasn't joking. I said neither was I. He held out his hand. I gave him a low-five. He said "ma'am, I can't serve you alcohol unless and until I see some id." I said "you just called me ma'am. You've solved your own puzzle." He said "our policy is to card anyone who looks younger than 63. You look to be about 61. Let me see some identification." I showed him my eye wrinkles and unbrushed hair, and threw a maraschino cherry at the register.

As you can imagine, I was coiled tight with frustration. I needed a release. I needed some way to get rid of the aggression boiling inside.

I crossed the street, staying well within the outlines of the cross-walk so as not to be ticketed for jay-walking. I walked a half-mile down the sidewalk, passing the children's clothing store and the children's hair salon. I took a right. I stepped inside.

I walked to the back of the store. I paced aisles and aisles of options as I tried to make my choice. I nodded my head in the direction of the man talking to himself and enacting a beach-storming scenario on the linoleum floor. I pointed to one of the gleaming beauties that looked comfortable to hold and not too heavy, but guaranteed to do more in 10 seconds than Congress does in 10 months.   I'll take it, I said. A burly guy in a blue smock smiled, handed it to me, and pointed in the direction of the register.

I slid my credit card across the plastic conveyor belt to the lady wearing a Santa Claus hat with blinking lights and a name tag covered in stickers. She never looked at me, just monotoned that I needed to sign and hit "Enter." I did. She asked if I needed a bag. I said, "you have bags for these?" She said no. I left.

I opened my trunk, pushed aside my son's stroller, and lovingly bestowed my new semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 in my trunk. I crumpled up my Walmart receipt and tossed it in the trash -- the last thing I needed was a ticket for littering.

As I drove out of the crowded parking lot, gone were the thoughts of the day's annoyances and limitations. At least I was able to buy a gun in the same amount of time it takes me to log onto my computer in the morning.

And then, the only thought going through my brain was:

Wonder what's the best spot around here for target practice?

Lest you consider me a raging hypocrite, and lest you not catch on to the tone in which this post was written, allow me to assure you that none of the above is true. The important thing is, it all could be.

Image via businessweek.com
 

8 comments:

  1. In addition to the Federal background check....

    In Maine-
    Dealers must keep a record of all firearm sales, rentals or loans. This record shall consist of the make, caliber, and serial number of the firearm and the name and address of the purchaser or recipient. This record shall be open to the inspection of any sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, constable, game warden or prosecuting attorney.

    A firearms dealer must include a safety brochure with every firearm sold.

    A person is guilty of a criminal offense if he knowingly sells, furnishes, gives away or offers to sell, furnishes, gives away to a child under the age of 16: air rifles, gunpowder, smokeless powder or ammunition for a firearm.

    It is an affirmative defense that the person was a parent or guardian or any adult approved by a parent or guardian or any adult person approved by a parent or guardian and was for a firearm for use in a supervised manner.

    It is unlawful for any person to transfer a handgun to a minor under 18.

    Any commercial retail sales outlet that sells firearms must post a conspicuous warning at each purchase counter in block letters not less than one inch in height which reads:

    "ENDANGERING THE WELFARE OF A CHILD IS A CRIME. IF YOU LEAVE A FIREARM AND AMMUNITION WITHIN EASY ACCESS OF A CHILD, YOU MAY BE SUBJECT TO FINE, IMPRISONMENT OR BOTH. KEEP FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION SEPARATE. KEEP FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION LOCKED UP. USE TRIGGER LOCKS."

    The same sign must be posted at all entrances to an organized gun show.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for that summary. I read it too, before I drafted my post.

      As for the federal background check, new legislation has been proposed in Congress because the checks that are supposed to happen pursuant to the Brady Bill are almost universally recognized as insufficient and ineffective. Several states don't even report, and among those that do, there is pretty obvious under-reporting.

      The rules specific to Maine you've provided mean that gun dealers can sell to an adult as long as they keep a record of the sale, include a safety brochure with the gun, and post a child endangerment warning at the point of sale. I don't know if your implication in posting that information was that Maine actually restricts gun sales more than I led readers to believe. If it was, I think you are wrong. If it was not, I am sorry for my misunderstanding.

      Either way, another excerpt from a summary of Maine gun laws that's important for completing the picture you've begun painting is:

      Restrictions

      Gun bans: None.

      Waiting periods for gun purchases: No.

      License or permit to purchase guns: No.

      Registration of guns: No.

      Thanks for reading, and for being part of the conversation.

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    2. I just though it was a bit of an exaggeration to suggest it's easier (or less paperwork or less bureaucracy) to buy a gun than to buy Sudafed, or alcohol for example. Why shouldn't gun dealers in Maine sell to an adult so long as they meet the federal and state requirements? (which include a check on felonies, ilicit drug use, and mental health among other things) Law abiding adult citizens should be allowed to walk in and buy a gun.

      As you might guess, I really am not in favor of regulations that include 'gun bans.' As for registrations or permits (state or federal) that doesn't thrill me either, but if someone could convince me that registrations would somehow prevent the type of gun violence we've been experiencing than I have an open mind. Waiting periods don't bother me either, although I haven't seen much that suggests this would prevent another Aurora shooting.
      My feeling is that if there are shortcomings with the Federal background check, or state compliance...then this existing system should be fixed rather than forcing 'new' regulations on legal gun purchases.

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  2. "Your day" makes me sick! This subject matter makes me so angry! I am not a "soap box" type of gal in the least but I would scream from the mountain tops about gun control! Thanks for not letting this conversation die-we cant afford anymore of that!

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  3. the world is so surreal sometimes. It's going to take the moms in this country to get stuff done, isn't it?

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  4. i was gonna say what kind of a lawyer can't get out of a late registration?

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  5. He held out his hand. I gave him a low-five.

    made me laugh good

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