Monday, July 30, 2012

The American Rifle Association, a biker, and Switzerland, too

I was aware of not looking at him and he was aware that I was aware of not looking at him. It was during a motor bikers’ convention here. Like most of them, he was middle aged; unlike most of them he did not wear a helmet; what he did wear around a 46 inch waist, however, was a tiny pistol with a two inch barrel. I guess he was a part of our “organized militia” entitled to bear arms. It sent me back some summers in Davos.

Walking back to the hotel that late Swiss afternoon I encountered a couple of what looked like seniors in high school. One had a light machine gun on his shoulder. They were laughing and must have been talking about girls. I guess I am showing my age: they looked like they had just finished their home work, but obviously now were on their way to a drill. In Switzerland, every male at eighteen is issued a rifle, twenty rounds, and obliged to show up at a drill regularly for most of the rest of his working life. He better not lose one of those twenty rounds, either.

The way of the militia in Switzerland can be astonishing. One year we happened to catch a week end maneuver and some guys were shopping while wearing their summer camouflage uniforms. The mountain roses were in bloom and so were the blooms on the uniforms. The only way the mountain sides could have been prettier would have been to have hidden a division on them in plain sight. 

One time, as we were coming down a pass from a border cross into Italy, I stopped to admire the road as it took a sudden bend about a thousand meters away. I happened to look down at my feet and there was a handful of rifle shells of various sizes and ages. Generations of farmers had sat there and sighted in that slow point in the road.

Well, here it is again about the time of the year when we get the annual Rifle Association article in the newspaper glorifying the right of the individual to buy any and all sorts of weapons. Some how I just don’t feel all that safe, though. In Switzerland I love to stand in front of one of those sporting goods stores and admire the beautiful hunting rifles; I just don’t get the same feeling when I walk past a local gun store and check out all those pistols with their multi-magazines.

I guess “only in Switzerland” and “only in America.” In one, you can discuss guns in the particular; in the latter, you can only discuss guns in the peculiar. It does seem like a good subject to discuss, though.

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