Friday, May 18, 2007

Shop local

Wandering home the other day, I decided to take a closer look at one of the small shops just round the corner from my new flat: High Bridge Arms Inc. Actually, I only intended to have a nosey peek in from the outside but, as I cupped my hand to the glass to try to see what lay behind the rather dusty camouflage netting in the window, the door buzzed to let me in. At that point it seemed rude to stay standing outside - and it's probably best to be as polite as you can be with your neighbourhood arms dealer.

Of course, not every street corner in SF has a gun shop - far from it. A quick search of the local Yellow Pages lists only one other gunsmith in the city, and slightly confusingly that one appears to also sell cosmetics and fragrances. (Now there's a great retail combination: "Come on down to Betty's Bullets'n'Beauty Supplies - everything you need to knock him dead or take him out".)

Inside High Bridge, glass cabinets display rows of square-edged handguns lying on top of the kind of plastic cases that - in my experience, at least - usually hold power tools. There are also all sorts of bullets, knives, handcuffs and T-shaped batons on offer, while a rack behind the counter holds a selection of shotguns with a uniformly urban rather than country gent aesthetic - all utilitarian plastic in place of the polished walnut I'm more used to seeing on the one type of firearm still legal in the UK. In fact, almost everything for sale here seems to be matt black.

It was a surprise to see guns being sold without reference - no matter how spurious - to sport, in the shape of either hunting animals or target shooting. But, as the "law enforcement supplies" sign outside implies, these guns aren't being sold for fun. The posters and catalogues for gun manufacturers such as SigArms and Glock remain pointedly neutral, while others for the likes of BlackHawk tactical nylons (a company which disappointingly doesn't supply tights to the special forces) use images of black-clad figures in ski masks waving their laser sights through smoke-filled rooms to full effect.

I suppose at least there is an honesty to this, but not one that is particularly comforting.

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