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          Front Page  upfront

Run on Guns

By Leslie Linthicum
Journal Staff Writer
      As blue washed across the country, ushered in a Barack Obama tidal wave and colored New Mexico more Democrat than it has ever been, it was easy for those on the winning team to feel caught up in something big.
    People drove around grinning with Obama yard signs stuck on their car windows Wednesday morning and planned weekend parties to bask in the afterglow.
    Dan Hutchison went in a different direction.
    He drove directly to an Albuquerque gun store, pointed to a dull black Israeli-made AK-47 rifle and slapped his driver's license on the counter for a background check.
    "I'm disappointed," Hutchison said. "This country is going down the tubes in a hurry." He forked over $829.95 and added, "It's time for the Rapture."
    Republicans didn't only lose on Tuesday, they got beaten like a drum.
    It was the end of an eight-year party for the GOP, the NRA and conservative "red state America." And for those who took to heart those warnings of socialism, terrorism, Muslimism and laws that will raise taxes, proliferate abortion and take away guns, Wednesday morning was the dawn of uncertain times.
    When liberals feel uncertain, they gather at Flying Star, drink too much coffee and blog until they feel better.
    Conservatives, I had been assured, go shopping for guns and ammo.
    They were there in droves at Ron Peterson Firearms on Central Avenue on Wednesday morning where Hutchison added the AK-47 to his collection, making the purchase now in case they were outlawed soon.
    They were there and they were disappointed, confused, angry and disgusted.
    Even though he has seen a better than 20 percent uptick in his business, Ron Peterson called the Obama election and the Democratic gains in the Congress "a black day for me."
    He anticipates a return of the ban on semiautomatic rifles enacted during the Clinton administration and additional restrictions on handguns and ammunition.
    The NRA lobbied hard against Obama. (If you thought it wasn't possible for Obama to take a bad picture, go to the NRA's gunbanobama.com for proof to the contrary.) The lobbying didn't win the election, but it resulted in an increase of gun sales of between 10 to 20 percent in the past few months.
    Rod Smith, 68 and a gun collector, leaned on a counter at Ron Peterson's on Wednesday morning and expressed complete bafflement at the Election Day results.
    "I'm a conservative," he said. "And I just absolutely don't understand the American public. This is crazy. Who's going to fight for us?"
    Smith looks into the future and sees an outright ban on semiautomatic weapons and a tax on ammunition that will make it impossible to fire any gun.
    His friend Dan Pauly, a retired general contractor, worries that Obama wants to make the United States a Christian-Muslim nation. And he worries that it will become illegal to own any gun. And that the country is more vulnerable when its individual citizens aren't armed.
    "I don't care about the color. I care about the politics," Pauly said. "And he scares me and he scares a lot of people."
    Valerie Jackson at Charlie's Sporting Goods in the Northeast Heights has been selling loads of handguns to people worried about a looming ban.
    When I talked to her last week, the presidency still hung in the balance and she laid out her version of an Obama administration like this: "If Obama is elected, you'll be out of business and so will I, because he's going to take away the 1st Amendment and the 2nd Amendment and then he's going to go after our religion."
    Obama was talking to Smith and Peterson and Pauly and Hutchison and Jackson when he gave his acceptance speech in Chicago on Tuesday night and called out to those who hadn't voted for him. "I will be your president, too," he said.
    He, of course, can't make that happen. Only this nation divided — the millions of people who felt as strongly that Obama is wrong for America as those who felt there was nothing more right — can decide whether to cling to their anger, their fear and, yes, to their guns.
    We've had eight years of that, and the people who have been on the losing side of elections for the past eight years can tell you that's nothing but a heartache and a waste of time.
    The tables turned this week in a big, big way. Now we can all decide whether we want to be sore losers and arrogant winners and continue to live in a suspicious us-against-them world.
    Or we can decide whether we want to call these last two elections even, and put down our guns and cutting words and try to wade together out of this muck we've found ourselves mired in.
    Can we do that?
    To quote the president-elect, "Yes, we can."
    You can reach Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Read all of her columns at www.abqjournal.com/upfront.