It was Monday, March 21, 1988. It was a chilly, sloppy morning that was fixing to turn into springtime, sooner or later.
Mark and Bill, the bassist and drummer respectively in my former band, were the youngest two brothers of a big, brawling Irish-Catholic family of eight – five brothers and three sisters. All eight of them were reliably left-of-center (more accurately, socialist) on every issue; they were also blazingly smart, articulate people; although only the two oldest brothers had gone to college, all eight of them were among the best-read people I’d ever met in my life; Bill – a tenth-grade dropout – was better-read than most Masters’ candidates in literature that I’ve met; his knowledge of James Joyce is rivalled by only one person I know.
And after our various band practices, we usually adjourned to glorious hours-long discussions of politics, literature, and history, that usually ended around 2AM and left everyone wanting more. Naturally, they all knew I’d been a conservative talk show host – it was fairly safe to say I was the only conservative pundit in the Twin Cities music scene at the time. So the debates were pretty intense – but fun.
One of the issues we disagreed about the most strongly was gun control. Neil – the brother just older than Mark, who had lived in New York and was a competitive weightlifter when he wasn’t working his day job (as a mover) was the most vigorously anti-gun; “if you’re a man, you shouldn’t need a gun”, he’d say – and usually change the subject when I responded “so what if you’re a 75 year old man? Or a 90 pound woman? Or a guy in a wheelchair”.
Mark didn’t like guns because of some legal issues in his teenage years; it was a legal matter, so he abstained pretty intensely.
Bill, the drummer? Well, with him the debate was largely philosophical and intellectual.
The phone rang at 8AM. It was Bill.
“Mitch? You gotta help me buy a gun”.
He related the story; he’d been mugged the night before. Some thug had made off with about $300 in cash. That followed a breakin that’d happened a few months earlier that had netted a TV and some cheap stereo gear (and thankfully none of the musical instruments in the basement).
Bill had had enough. Although he knew Minnesota’s concealed-carry law at the time would never grant him a permit to carry in public, he wanted to secure his home – and secure it but good.
I picked him up around 10. We drove to Richfield Gun and Pawn.
He made a beeline to the store’s large, well-trafficked Assault Rifle section, and started eyeing a Norinco AK47.
I tactfully talked him away from it; for home defense, either a shotgun or a handgun were a much better idea.
I directed him toward a really nifty 12 gauge riot gun. We walked toward the counter…
…and he saw the SKS carbine. It was like a magnetic attraction.
“Bill”, I said, trying to nag him out of it. But between the firepower (semi-automatic, ten round stripper clip-fed magazine) and the price (about $100 at the time), it…well, “sent the message” he wanted sent.
I talked him into buying a box of soft-point rounds (the better for shooting indoors) along with a couple of boxes of cheap Egyptian hardball, and we drove out to Bill’s Gun Range in Robbinsdale. We set up on the line, I walked him through the safety rules (it’s always loaded), and he fired the first shots of his life, busting off five shots at a paper target.
And he came up smiling. My first convert.
Another true believer.
I had created a monster, as events turned out – but in a good way.