Subj: Point & Click Technology
Wade’s Eastside Guns is in Bellevue, Washington, a plush suburb of Microsoft. I was in the Pacific Northwest to attend a conference organized by Academics for the Second Amendment, a group dedicated to encouraging scholarship about gun rights. About 20 people participated, mostly professor types, but a few journalists and a retired cop too. We were at Wade’s on a field trip. We didn’t just talk about guns at the conference, you see. We got to shoot them.
If guns do cause crime and suicide, then Wade’s should have been a dangerous place. A federal judge had just ordered Microsoft to split up, and the net worth of most folks around these parts had taken a substantial hit. Yet there was neither a run on handguns nor a single suicide at Wade’s, at least for the three hours I and the other conferees spent firing off 17,000 rounds from five submachine guns, one modified machine gun, and a long-range sniper rifle.
Members of the Microsoft Gun Club –each attired in the club’s black polo shirts imprinted with the slogan "Point and Click Technology"–helped run the range.
"Judge Jackson didn’t understand the technological issues," was how ex- Microsoft programmer Jim Gordon put it as he loaded up the magazine of a fully automatic Heckler & Koch MP5. Gordon, who’s now with a software startup, said he’s been hurt by the Microsoft decision. Yet he handed over the submachine gun, turning it on neither himself nor me in anger, and I was soon putting holes in my target’s paper belly and head.
One station offered the Swedish K, a submachine gun first
manufactured in Sweden and later in Egypt. To its left
sat a British Sten gun, a popular World War II firearm. There were two H&Ks, the submachine gun of choice for America’s law enforcement community. "It’s the ultimate status symbol for police," noted Joseph Olson, a gun-toting professor from Minnesota’s Hamline School of Law. "Many of them lie awake at night thinking about having one."
Irv Benzion, a National Rifle Association board member, was kind enough to bring out his .30 caliber Browning 1919, a lie-on- your-belly-and-shoot-’em-up semi- automatic rifle, a version of a machine gun used in both World War II and Korea–and quite a kick to shoot.
But even this bundle of fun was upstaged by Professor Olson’s Barrett Bolt Action 50 BMG, a gun so big the federal government is considering banning it. In the hands of a skilled marksman, this long-range precision rifle can take out a politician or other object of hatred as far away as 1,000 yards. In my hands, it could barely hit a piece of paper a few yards away.
Lying on my stomach, I struggled to lift the damn thing into a position to fire. It was like a cannon going off. Its deafening blast rattled my head; its substantial kick sent pain through my shoulder and put a temporary crick in my back.
The academics and journalists appeared to have fun. "That’s not too shabby," said Carl Moody, an economics professor at the College of William & Mary, after unloading two magazines of bullets from an M-16.
Our joy didn’t go unnoticed by staff. "These guys are getting their rocks off," said a range hand. It wasn’t just rocks that were getting off.
"It kind of feels like an accomplishment," REASON Contributing Editor Cathy Young told me, after blasting away at a target with a version of the very gun Janet Reno claims was never pointed at young Elian Gonzalez. "I can see myself owning a handgun."
Yet it wasn’t only a day of accomplishment for Young, whose weak hands forced her to rely on a range staffer to load a pistol. "I just feel so humiliated," the author of Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, told me. "I needed a man to load my gun for me."
And one fellow didn’t enjoy the afternoon at all. "It’s not my idea of fun," he confided in the men’s room, where signs warned us to keep our guns holstered. "I don’t like loud noises and…." His voice trailed off as he got down to business.
Subj: DOJ Victory Tour