Jane Fonda as Cat BallouAnyone who’s been following my blog knows I’ve been under pressure to buy a gun, mostly from the British contingent. As my friend Rob says, “You’re an American. It’s part of your culture.” The plan accelerated two years ago when Republican blog chatter started claiming Obama was going to clamp down on gun ownership. I’d never thought much about having a gun, but when it suddenly seemed as if it was going to stop being easy to get one, I thought more seriously about getting myself armed up. What? You don’t think an East Coast educated Liberal needs a gun? Ever seen Jimmy Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? I rest my case.

And you see that’s been my problem. I’ve been basing my gun choices on my favorite cowboy stars. If Clint, John or Gary were packin’ it, I was ready to buy it. My other mistake, apparently, was to work backward from whatever it was I wanted to kill — which was, basically, nothing. Seems that’s the wrong approach. Or at least that’s what they told me today down at The Last Gun Shop.

I’m not sure why it’s called The Last Gun Shop. Maybe because you have to get nearly 70 miles outside of San Francisco to find one.

Some situations just call for full disclosure. So when the young (and heavily armed) young man behind the counter asked, “How can I help you”, I spoke right up:

“Can you help a Liberal buy a gun?”

Yes, this pistol-packin’ gal here and above is Jane Fonda in her role as Cat Ballou. A great Western comedy, complete with Lee Marvin in a dual role and a drunken horse.

That brought all the tough guys, many in camouflage jackets, crowding around the counter. Clearly I was not a typical visitor to gun shops. Even shops this close to Wine Country. (It should be noted that the town of Napa is actually a lot closer to hunting territory than it is to sipping territory. You have to go up the Valley a bit to find Cabernet instead of Calibers.)

“Well, do you have any idea what kind of gun you are looking for?”

“I kind of had my heart set on a Belle Starr/Miss Kitty sort of thing. You know a derringer. Maybe with a pearl handle.”

My nice young clerk wasn’t even going to dignify this with an answer. So I tried another tack. That full disclosure thing.

“See, I’m living part time out in the country. Alone. And there is a Mountain Lion on our property.”

As he reached for a shotgun that looked as if it would take down a buffalo, I quickly added:

“Oh, I don’t want to shoot the Mountain Lion. In fact, knowing Mountain Lions, I don’t think I’d even see it if it decided to leap off a ledge onto my neck. Actually, we’ve had some break-ins and I was looking for a gun for protection.”

That led to a completely different gun case. But still a series of firearms that looked entirely too deadly for my tastes.

As I gingerly tried hefting some of the rifles, I worked up the courage to make my real goal known:

“You know, I think I just want to scare someone away. What would happen if I shot someone with this gun?”

The answer was short and to the point: “He would die.”

“Um, do you have something that would just spray a little buckshot but not really kill or maim anyone? Kind of like the gun Dick Cheney used to shoot his friend in the face.”

As soon as I said it, I expected a sneer of contempt. But never underestimate the kindness of Gun Shop people.

“Look, why don’t we find you something that’s big enough that the Bad Guys can see it. And that is loud enough that it scares them.”

That’s how I found myself holding a pump-action 20 gauge Remington shotgun.

“I think this is going to be the right gun for you”, said my new Gun Shop Buddy. “Listen to the sound of this pump action.”

You know that dramatic Tschhhhhh-Tsch sound when The Man With No Name pumps up his gun before the gunfight? That’s the sound this gun makes.

“There”, said my Gun Shop Buddy, “anyone sane and clean who hears this sound will know you mean business. You won’t even have to fire a shot.”

“Great”, said I, “Just what I want. A pre-emptive firearm.”

“Of course, if a meth-head is coming at you, you’ll completely re-evaluate your desire not to shoot anything.”

Hmmmm. Maybe. But I’m hoping the combination of terrier howling and now my completely bad-ass Western sounding pump action rifle will keep all but the baddest dudes away.

So now I just have to wait out ten days while the ATF checks out if I have any felonies to my name.

Call me a traitor to my political affiliations, but I’m kind of liking the idea of being armed.

My only question now:

Can I get gun racks fitted to my Prius?

Addendum: If you’re stumped by my Liberty Valance reference, this’ll help ya Pilgrim: