Growing up in suburban Broken Arrow, I never really had the chance to grow an interest in weapons. To my Dad, who had three guns above the bed most of my teenage years, I never showed enough interest to warrant all the fees and licenses. Also, I was a bit of a pseudo hippie-stoner more interested in skateboarding, science or other creative and intellectual pursuits; than the rough and tumble “manly-man” things of the world. Your basic teenage lump, I never shot a gun until well into my twenties.
However, now I am a family man. I am conservative and a strong believer in the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. To be fair, I was always that way; just not as motivated. So, I asked a friend knowledgeable in weapons if he would be my Sherpa on the first trek to purchase my first gun.
The plan was to buy something for less than $500.00 functional in home defense, hunting, and that could be used by my spouse. In my mind, that added up to one thing, a shotgun. Last Saturday November 13, we journeyed to the QT Event Center at Expo Square in Tulsa to attend Wanenmacher’s Tulsa Arms Show, the world’s largest gun show.
Arriving at 9:15 am, I figured we would have plenty of time and space to park. After 20 minutes of circling the main parking lot, we gave up and drove out past the race track; taking the shuttle to the door. The line was brief and the entrance fee was reasonable at $10 per person. Then the real walking began.
The massive 11 acre building filled wall to wall with vendors selling their wares. Each row was marked by a huge sign with a number on it and each column had a letter, so no matter where you were you could locate the table you wanted to find again. After just a few feet, I was very glad for my navigator in the jungle of choices.
The vendors weren’t the only ones selling; many people were walking around with signs in the ends of barrels or over their chest listing the weapons they literally carried to sell.
A dizzying array of handguns, assault rifles, explosives, grenades, knives, swords, and non-lethal weapons were spread out over the entire floor of the center. The crowd was more varied than I had imagined. The ages ranged from children in strollers to the elderly in wheelchairs. There was a larger population of women than I expected. Many vendors even catered specifically to women offering pink weapons, handguns, stunners, crossbows, clothing – even rifles in pink.
Of course, the majority population was male in mostly hunting or cowboy dress with several dead-ringers for Wyatt Earp. Mixed in were those of various ethnicities, Hispanic, Asian, Middle-Eastern, and African-American.
Aside from the many weapons and accessories, there were many historical artifacts. American war relics, such as helmets from WWII, rifles from Civil War through Vietnam, and even some meteorites were for sale. As I imagined, there were also a few booths with Nazi artifacts, knives, flags, emblems, etc. I ignored those purveyors; as I find it in the most appalling taste to sell something used during one of mankind’s blackest moments. There were also several Imperial Japanese swords labeled “Guadalcanal” etc. I had the same contempt for them.
The people there were the most polite I have ever witnessed in such a large venue with so little walking room. I remember hearing “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me” for just the slightest brush while passing more times than I could count. Mrs. Manners would have been proud. The rest areas were clean, and litter was almost non-existent. Men differed to let women pass, and women for the most part were dressed modestly. In fact, the Tulsa State Fair last month was much more dirty, crowded, and uncouth.
I had a good time, and will return next year better prepared for several hours of walking. I did finally make a purchase and I am satisfied with the price of $485 for a normally $700-800 item. Leaving the gun show, I have a new found appreciation for the vast variety of people who enjoy them and for the amount of knowledge those who know this stuff must have.
Aside from a very few, this is a well-mannered, kind, and polite crowd. I guess the old saying “An armed society, is a polite society” is never more true than at a gun show.
About the author:
Aaron Sheppard is a long time believer in smaller government and responsible use of tax dollars. As a former City of Tulsa employee who worked in the Finance Department assisting in production of the Annual City Budget from 2001 to 2004, he experienced first hand the differences in what happens behind the scenes and what makes the news. You can read more from this author at www.theperegrinfalcon.com.