The adventures of gun shopping in California.
I bought a gun today. But that statement clearly oversimplifies the transaction that has taken place to this point and will continue until January 2nd, 2012.
I tweeted earlier today that anyone who thinks purchasing a gun in CA is easy is either a moron or a felon. It’s not easy. It’s not simple. And in California, the rules change frequently so it’s not even predictable.
Before I explain todays events, a little backstory: I get flyers in the mail from a couple of different places locally that sell guns. Most of them you just flip through, lust a little, and discard. But I’ve discovered something in the last year or two. Ammunition has gotten really expensive! The most inexpensive ammunition available is typically standard NATO military rounds because they are manufactured in huge quantities. In case you missed it, we’ve been fighting two wars this past decade. Many civilian ammunition manufacturers have increased their production of military cartridges to fulfill government contracts at the expense of other calibers. So regardless of what you think of the 9x19mm pistol or 5.56mm rifle cartridge, that’s what the military uses most. More often than not, ammunition in these two calibers will be reasonably priced. I don’t own a firearm in either of these two calibers. I determined to rectify this at some point. The flyers arrived recently and there was a sale on a pistol I had previously shot. I knew two people who owned that particular model and both were happy with it.
About a week ago I went to my local gun range/gun store to buy my brother-in-law some cheap 9mm ammunition for HIS new 9mm pistol. It was his birthday present. I remembered the promotion, asked the clerk about it, and committed to purchase the firearm. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of the sale, they were out of stock. So I filled out some preliminary paperwork, gave the store a downpayment, and waited for them to call me when my pistol arrived.
That gets us to today.
My brother-in-law called last night and was clearly itching to shoot his brand new 9mm pistol for the first time. So this morning we packed up my car at 9:30am and headed to the range. And so began a series of setbacks that would extend what was originally to be a 2-3 hour event into something that lasted all day long.
After a long pit stop at the local Starbucks, which was packed, we arrived at the range at just after 10am. We had been to this range at 10am before. But of course, today the range didn’t open until noon. What to do. Let’s go to a different gun store and window shop! So we drove across town to the other gun store, wandered around said gun store for an hour, and then drove back to the first gun store/range. Two hours killed, nothing accomplished, not one single round fired.
We arrived back at the range only to find every single parking spot was full except one. The place was packed. We entered the gun store at approximately 12:30pm and somehow managed to snag a sales clerk relatively quick. The first order of business was to make some inquiries about how to properly build an AR-15 rifle in California without being guilty of a felony offense. Yes, if done improperly you could be in a bit of trouble with the authorities. Got that pretty well sorted out in about fifteen minutes.
With that cleared up I proceeded to ask the clerk, “Hey, did my gun arrive yet?” After a couple of minutes of confusion I was told it arrived yesterday and off went the clerk to retrieve it. He returned with a firearm in it’s case and a handful of paperwork. I filled out some of it. The clerk filled out some of it. The clerk also frequently ran off to enter information into a computer and do God knows what else. This took 15-20 minutes after which I was asked to produce my “Handgun Safety Certificate”, which of course I did not have. “No problem”, the clerk says. ”You can get one right here”. ”You just have to take a test.” So the wheels of commerce that were barely moving to begin with ground to a sudden halt as I proceeded to take a 25 question true-false and multiple choice quiz to determine if I was worthy to purchase this weapon. I passed, missing only two questions which were trick questions anyway.
Moving right along we proceeded to the standard firearm purchasing questionnaire with the “are you a felon” and “have you ever renounced your citizenship” questions. Most gun store clerks will acknowledge the questions are for idiots. But you still have to answer them. I whipped right through that. But I made a goof. I wrote the state name in the box where the county name was supposed to go. So I got to do it all over again. And I had just gotten the ink off of my thumb from the thumbprinting.
At this point the clerk went over to plow all of this information into the Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) system. This took a while. During that time I tweeted, checked my Facebook timeline, fondled some of the long guns on the sales floor, and inspected my new pistol which was on the display case in front of me. It was at this time I discovered that the magazines for my pistol were stamped with a “.40 S&W” on the bottom of them. This led me to inspect the pistol itself, which shipped from the factory in a plastic bag. Sure enough, it was stamped “.40 S&W” on the slide. My clerk brought out the wrong model gun. Now guns aren’t shoes. You can’t just go back behind the curtain and get another size. My diligent sales clerk was over on the other side of the room entering the information about that gun into the DROS system. Upon his return I informed him that he was going to have to back all of that information out and do it again. He was a very nice guy. But he was less than pleased with this revelation. So he went back to the storeroom, retrieved the correct model, and did the DROS dance all over again.
We had now arrived at the point where money actually changes hands. I paid $25 for my Handgun Safety test, $25 for DROS, the balance on my pistol, and purchased some ammunition for the pistol. Since there is a range adjacent to the gun store I was offered the option to shoot my new pistol immediately and I accepted. I gathered up my ammo, pistol, and paperwork and walked out of the gun store at 2:15pm. We had killed nearly two more hours.
Finally, after nearly five hours, we walked onto the pistol range, loaded up our magazines, and began slinging lead. We mostly shot our two new pistols, frequently exchanging them so we could compare sights and trigger smoothness. We were both pleased with our purchase. Any shortcomings we found in our guns would likely work themselves out after a thorough breaking-in and a little tuning. With our ammunition exhausted, we packed up the car and got ready to leave. But first, I had to return my new pistol to the gun store where it would be held during my 10-day waiting period.
We got home just before 5pm.