Saturday, January 29, 2005

One That Got Away

This week's theme has become machine guns. It was not a planned theme, but this post and this one with its comments kinda set the tone.

I had an opportunity once to buy a Thompson sub-machine gun. I was in college in the 1970s. A man from our "brother" dorm knew I liked to shoot and told me his Dad was selling an old Thompson. I telephoned his Dad, the police chief of a small town. He had bought the weapon surplus and it was registered. Everything about it was legal and I met all qualifications for owning a machine gun then.

After a weekend visit home, the young man brought the gun to the dorm for inspection along with a copy of its ATF forms. We could not fire it since his Dad nixed that just in case something happened while he was in the middle of selling it.

By the way, we did not break one anti-gun rule even though my friend had the gun in his dorm room for a week. I even had it in my room since I had some gunsmith tools and we field stripped it and poked around in its innards for a closer look.

The Thompson was a World War II model with relatively crude wood stocks and finish. I don't remember what company made it. It had a stubby barrel, a sharp little front sight, and as I recollect little dings and scrapes around the bolt handle. The stock had also seen better days, but it was beautiful to my eyes.

I wanted that gun so bad my teeth hurt, but I had to talk to my father about buying it. The price was $500.00 and I would have to pay the $200.00 tax. As a college student, I didn't have $700.00 although I recall I had a good part of it. I needed a loan. I also needed the wise counsel of my Dad, the smartest man I know. He is an entrepreneur (retired now), he built a business from the ground up, he flew B-17s and B-29s in the war. I admired him then just as I do now.

Still, I got the worst advice possible. He talked me out of buying the gun. He questioned why anyone needed a machine gun. He talked about the expense of shooting one, the legal hassles of filling out ATF forms, the cost (high for a gun in those days), and everything else.

I took his counsel and thought then that I was making a wise, adult choice. I felt that by heeding my Dad's advice, I proved I was not some headstrong adolescent, but an adult ready to take her place in the world. I didn't buy it and regret it every time I think about it.

If I owned the gun now, it would be worth at least $18,000.00--not that I would sell it.

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