The Wild Life #11
There are now two Christmases in my life I will never forget. The first one, was the Christmas when I was nine years old and Santa fulfilled my wildest childhood dream when he left a brand new daisy Model 25 pump action BB gun under the tree for me, my first gun, and armed me with a lifetime inspiration which I would later use to become an avid outdoorsman, a writer, and a career law enforcement officer. The second one, was the Christmas of 2015, just two weeks ago now, when the scourge of Liberalism poisoned my Holiday after my Constitutional Right to purchase a firearm was, for the first time in my life, DENIED. When one of the Good Guys, me, was labeled as one of the Bad Guys, and after 34 years of protecting and serving the public, with a gun, I was forced to prove I wasn’t who they were saying I was. But don’t worry, like any good Christmas story this one does have a happy ending. So please, read on.
I won’t bore you with my life long passion, fascination, and dedication to firearms by listing how many guns I’ve purchased during my lifetime, and frankly, one of the reasons I don’t want to is because it is none of the government’s goddamned business. I hunt, I shoot, I collect, and I have carried a gun every working day of my life for the last 34 years, and in the Age of Terrorism I carry a gun when I’m off duty every time I walk out my front door. To me, the gun has always meant Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness as an American, and it still means that to me, only now, more than ever.
Christmas, on the other hand, as much as I love it, had somehow become an imposing stressor in our lives over the last few years, so my wife and I both agreed to do something about it. Christmas 2015 was going to be different. Oh, there would still be a sweetly decorated Charlie Brown Christmas Tree in the family room, twinkling, blazing Christmas lights out on the lawn, and a gorgeous Christmas turkey browning in the oven, but in order to cut down on the stress of trying to rack our brains for gift ideas for each other, we would limit our gift buying to “three small, inexpensive gifts, and dinner and a movie, from each.” Perfect! Right?
Well, it was perfect, until one night two weeks before Christmas, and after I’d already bought all three gifts for my wife, and went over budget, of course, she talked with her recently retired cop brother in Idaho who told her he’d just bought his wife a Glock 43 9mm for Christmas. The minute my wife was off her smart phone, the wheels of fate were set in motion for one of my worst/best Christmases ever, the Christmas of 2015.
My wife: “What’s a Glock 43?”
My wife: “My brother got his wife a Glock 43 for Christmas.”
Me: “It’s a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.”
My wife: “I want a Glock 43.”
Me: “No, you don’t. You have a .22.”
My wife: “I want what she has.”
My wife: “I’m ready to get my concealed carry permit.”
Two nights later, I called my brother-in-law in Idaho:
Me: “Did you buy your wife a Glock 43 for Christmas?”
The next day I went down to Rogue River Sporting Goods and saw my buddy Justin, the manager, and ordered a Glock 43. He told me that they were drying up faster than the Sahara Desert after a sandstorm, in the wake of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino but he would do his best to find me one. If anyone could find a Glock 43, less than two weeks before Christmas, I knew Justin could. I have had a long, fond history with Rogue River Pharmacy and Sporting Goods, more than fourteen years worth, ever since moving here in 2001. The sprawling variety, hardware, electronics, books (including all my novels), pharmacy and sporting goods store is known locally as “Guns N’ Drugs” and it is a quintessential example of rapidly disappearing 1970’s retail Americana. The first guns I ever bought at the store was the first Christmas after we moved to Rogue River in November of 2001. A divorced dad, with his two youngest sons coming to stay with my new wife and I for the Holidays and searching for the perfect Christmas gifts for them, I was thrilled when I found out that “Jimmy” the manager of Guns N’ Drugs at the time had just purchased the gun inventory from another sporting goods store going out of business, and had a dozen Ruger 10/22’s with wood stocks brand new in their boxes for sale at eighty bucks apiece.
I spent an hour at the gun counter, opening box after box of the little Rugers, looking for the guns with the best bluing, and nicest stocks, and after I’d chosen two, Jimmy gave me the Federal 4473 background check form and I began filling it out. When I was finished, Jimmy got on the phone to the Oregon State Police in Salem and relayed my information to them. As we waited for the “return” we chatted about this and that, and I think I was in the process of looking at a Smith & Wesson 2″ .38 Airweight when I heard Jimmy say, “You ever been in the Army?” I put the gun down on the glass countertop and looked up.
“Yeah, they wanna know,” said Jimmy, his hand over the phone.
“No,” I said. “Never. Why?” Jimmy waved me off as he slowly, and concisely repeated my name and date of birth, and my address, into the phone. Again.
“They say you’re a deserter from the Army,” Jimmy said. My mouth started to open in protest, when Jimmy quickly waved me off again. “No,” he said into the phone.” “No. No. How the hell do I know? He’s the chief of police, for Christ’s sake! Yes. He’s standing right here!”
Another minute or two passed, and then Jimmy hung up he phone and it was over with almost as quickly as it had begun. “Some guy with your same name, and date of birth, was a deserter from the Army,” said Jimmy. “I told them it wasn’t you. That’ll be a hundred and sixty, even. Cash, or check?”
I walked out of Guns N’ Drugs that night with the two little Rugers tucked underneath my arm, shaking my head at what the odds must be for some guy out there having my exact name and date of birth, as well as a criminal record. And even though it was the first time in my life that I had experienced any problem whatsoever wih a gun background check, it was no big deal. Stuff happens, right? And besides, the whole thing had been cleared up, over the phone, in less than five minutes, and it would obviously never happen again. It was clearly just a one-off. The attacks on 9/11 were only a little more than three months old, and America was not yet fully in the grip of fear, mistrust, and paranoia that would eventually sweep through the country. That would come eight years later, after the second attack, after Barack Hussein Obama was elected to the office of President of the United States.
About a week before Christmas of 2015, Justin called me to let me know my Glock 43 was in, and I went down to the store and looked at it. He had found exactly one out there from his myriad of distributors, so, yes, I definitely wanted it. But I was too busy to pick it up that day. I would, however, be back before Christmas to get it, I told him. It would be a great Christmas gift for my wife, and after we went out and did some shooting with it, if she didn’t like it, it would be mine. If she did like it (which she does) then I would buy another one because I wanted to upgrade my off duty weapon. When you have many different people seeking to kill you in the name of “religion” and politics and crime like we police officers do now in 2016, it is absolutely critical to have the best means of self-defense possible available to you for your specific needs, and in my opinion that is the Glock 43.
Christmas Eve day 2015 dawned cold and snowy in Rogue River, and it was perfect in every way. People were everywhere on the downtown streets, and in the shopping center, buying last minute gifts, and Holiday dinner goodies, and wishing everyone they saw a “Merry Christmas” and I was one of them. My shift ended at noon that day and by 1:05, I was at Guns N’ Drugs filling out my Form 4473. The only problem was, there were 198 other Oregonians ahead of me across the state doing the same thing. Buying guns for Christmas. In Oregon, all background checks for firearms purchases are conducted through the Oregon State Police Firearms Instant Check System (FICS), and they don’t do it for free. The cost is $10.00 per background check, but if something goes wrong there are no refunds. In the days of Jimmy, everything was done over the phone, but now there is an online system option which has seemed to speed up the process, and streamline it. Unless, of course, there are 198 people waiting ahead of you.
The store was scheduled to close at 5pm that day but by 4:30 I had finally moved to the #2 position on the NICS system. A few minutes later, I was #1. A few minutes after that, I was being “looked at.” I was standing at a checkout counter, buying some Christmas ornaments, when Justin made his way over to me from the gun department, his face white as a ghost, and holding my Form 4473 at arm’s length from him like he’d just discovered it was laced with Ricin. Reaching me as I stood there, smiling, knowing that my wife would be getting her special Christmas gift after all, Justin leaned forward and barely whispered in my ear, “Chief…you’ve been denied.”
Thanks to the recently dethroned (last year) criminal Democrat Governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, who was forced out of office on corruption charges, the Oregon State Police are now mandated to immediately respond to the scene of any gun dealer in the state to investigate a Firearms Transfer Denial, in hopes of catching someone who is illegally trying to purchase a firearm. Knowing this, I drove straight to my office at the police department and called the police on myself. I identified myself to the OSP Dispatch Center, told them I would be waiting at my office for contact by a Trooper, and would wait there until they came. Because it was Christmas Eve, and I wanted to go home and have some Eggnog and watch some Christmas movies on DVD with my wife, if there was going to be a knock on my door halfway through National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I wasn’t going be happy about it. The Dispatcher was great. He told me I could go home and have my Eggnog and “not to worry about it.” They wouldn’t have a Trooper free to respond for “several days.” I wished him a Merry Christmas and he wished me a Merry Christmas, and I went home. But Christmas, for me, was already ruined.
We usually open our gifts on Christmas Eve but I told my wife that night that I didn’t feel like it. We opened them on Christmas morning, and had a great Christmas dinner that afternoon, but I didn’t say anything about her missing Christmas gift. That word, “Denied” kept running through my mind, even though I knew damn well I hadn’t done anything to disqualify me from purchasing a firearm! At least not according to the law. But what about this current government’s “shadow law”? Was it something I posted somewhere? Was I suddenly now on the No Fly List for some reason? Five years ago, I would have called this line of thinking paranoia. Today, I would call it very possible.
The morning after Christmas, I finally told my wife what had happened. I told her that I had asked Justin to hold onto the Glock 43 until I got this mess straightened out, but that if she wanted to, I would go down to Gun N’ Drugs with her and she could purchase the Glock herself. I was shocked when she practically flew into the bathroom and began putting on her makeup! She was thrilled that she was getting a Glock for Christmas, even if it was a little late, and seemed even more thrilled that in a few minutes we would be on our way downtown so that she could buy her first gun, ever!
And that’s exactly what we did. I can’t tell you how it felt as I watched my wife filling out her own 4473, getting fingerprinted, and then getting approved by OSP for her handgun, and all in about twenty minutes, other than I was proud of her, for sure, and I was happy for her. But I was also still insulted, and offended about what had happened to me. I wanted some answers, and come Monday morning when I went back to work, I was going to get them.
By Tuesday morning, after having contacted the head of OSP’s FICS Unit the day before, and resubmitting my thumbprints again down at Guns N’ Drugs, my purchase of the Glock 43 was approved. Too bad somebody had already bought it out from underneath me though…my wife. Just kidding. The State of Oregon was efficient, and expeditious in helping me getting my Denied status changed to an Approval, which I appreciated very much, especially since I’ve heard about other people’s experiences being just the opposite. Are they able to give this level of service to everyone who has been Denied? No, they aren’t. There are just too many people who run afoul of the imperfect background check system now, and I fear that with Obama’s recent executive action meddling there are now going to be many more. What made my case different is that I can’t work as a police officer if I am suddenly suspected of doing something criminal which would prevent me from legally purchasing a firearm. So, what was the problem? Why, my old friend Kenneth R. Lewis the Army deserter, of course. When I told the FICS employee assigned to my case, about the incident 14 years ago at Guns N’ Drugs while trying to purchase two .22 rifles, I was told that the information given about my real identity then had probably “rolled out of the system after so long.” That information must have rolled out fairly recently because I purchased two other firearms in 2015, one in March and one in July and I passed both FICS checks with flying colors.
But are gun background checks really the problem? You and I both know that they are not. The problem is the Progressive Left, who have invaded the body politic of America like a cancer, and who have begun to metastasize our freedoms, our liberty, and our very lives at an alarming rate. When a pathological liar with evil intent like Barack Obama tells you that he’s “not coming to take your guns,” trust me, he is coming to take your guns. The only question is, what are we, as a country, as a people, and as individuals, going to do about it? In the case of my own family, one new gun buyer/gun owner was added to the population, my wife, and she has also now taken her training, and is certified, to apply for her CCW. The minute my false criminal record was expunged, I ordered my own Glock 43. And last night, after Obama’s “Town Hall on Guns,” I ordered another handgun. Because as an American, I decided it was just “the right thing to do.”
See how that works, Mr. President? I have a phone, and a pen, too.