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In Plain Sight: Inside Gun Stores

Friday, August 29, 2014


Photo credit: Marcin Wichary on Flickr (CC)

The other day I was coming out of the newest strip mall gun store when I bumped into a former estate client, Karen, who was sitting outside eating her fro-yo.

“That place is vile and dangerous. I would never go in there,” she judged at me, pointing her pursed lips at the Gun Store. 

Before I could explain, she had already mentally blamed me for Columbine. 

Like my ex-client, we all have opinions, and when we go looking for proof that our opinions are right, we find it. That proof is way harder to ignore than the equal or greater proof that we’re wrong. There’s even a name for it: Confirmation Bias. I’m as guilty as any.

Without having even gone into a gun store, my former client had formed her opinion about the topic and was well on her way to forming a similar opinion about me. Seeing me come out of the Gun Store immediately determined for her that I was not a member of her tribe. 


If we’re lucky we find our tribe. Many of us find memberships in several tribes. We reinforce our membership by weighing others against whether they fit or do not fit within our tribe. We search for things to confirm that our tribe is the right tribe, that we belong in our tribe, and that the other tribes are wrong. Politics and religion are obvious tribes. Industries, cultures, and counter-cultures also include or exclude us as members. Our memberships are as often our choices as they are choices made for us. 

Karen identified me as someone who was not a member of her tribe when, in fact, that really wasn’t true. I hate gun violence with a raging passion. I just didn’t know enough to know what to do about it…but I cared enough to find out. That is what I was doing in the gun store – following my curiosity.

Tribe of the Curious

Truth be told, the only tribe to which I’m an unwavering member is the Tribe of the Curious.

One great and convenient thing about being in this tribe is that Portland is a land of curiosity. We are chock full of interesting characters, industries, cultures, and counter-cultures that are often hiding in plain sight, but our busy schedules rarely allow us to simply follow our curiosity about them.

Many of our most deeply-held opinions and criticisms are formed before the stoplight turns green and we drive (or cycle) on past the places and people about which we’re so "judge-y."

We may wonder what it’s like inside that fortuneteller shop, plasma donation center, payday loan place, strip club, head shop, tattoo parlor, S & M dungeon, herbarium, import outlet, or marijuana dispensary. But we rarely go in and find out for ourselves. 

For this column, I’ll go into some of these places, hidden in plain sight, and share what I learn.

But, before going into those quirky places weighed down with opinions, I’ll poke myself to ask, “How did I come to believe this? What if I am wrong?”

Hell yes, I have strong opinions, but I’ll try to keep those curiosity killers bound and gagged. I invite you to do the same. 

We can champion cross-pollination, exploration, connection and a way of placing curiosity ahead of criticism. Yes, we can still be judge-y, but only after we follow our curiosity. 

So what did I learn about guns? 

In Case You're Curious: Ten Things You Might Not Have Known About Guns and Gun Sales

1. Gun violence is good for gun sales. 

2. Anti-gun politicians are good for gun sales.

3. Politicians probably don’t understand gun technology well enough to lead the fight for gun regulation that might actually work.

4. Many gun proponents don’t agree with the National Rifle Association (NRA) about gun control.

5. The gun industry is targeting women—with huge success.

6. Laser pointers on guns are sold to women as great deterrents to potential criminals, but laser pointers without guns, according to those in gun retail, “simply would not work."

7. The sound of a shotgun cock is said to be a great deterrent to potential criminals, but the cocking sound without the shotgun, according to those in gun retail, “simply would not work.”

8. If you are mentally ill or use illegal drugs (including recreational marijuana), you’re supposed to offer that information before you can buy a gun.

9. According to the paperwork submitted by gun buyers, no mentally ill person or marijuana user has ever tried to buy a gun.

10. Buying a gun can be faster than getting an order from Panda Express.

The Gun Store…

… is neither vile nor dangerous. Guns in the wrong hands are. The Gun Store and gun stores like it do not do enough to prevent the wrong hands from obtaining guns because they have no more incentive to do so than the frozen yogurt place has to prevent lactose intolerant customers from buying their products.

Both strip mall neighbors exist for the same reason: To make money. 

Deciding whether the government should look at better regulation of how and to whom guns are sold should be easy. How the government will intervene will be determined by big voices and bigger money. How the government should intervene is far more complicated than I realized before I disappointed Karen by following my curiosity.  

What’s hiding in your plain sight that you’re curious about? Email me at [email protected] and I’ll go.


Becki Saltzman, Founder Oomau Media

A graduate degree in behavioral science, three generations of Portland blood in her veins, 20 years as a real-estate broker, and a lifetime of delving into other people’s business have caused Becki Saltzman’s severe curiosity disorder. She is the author of Arousing the Buy Curious: Real Estate Pillow Talk for Patrons and Professionals, founder of Oomau Media, and she looks forward to expanding membership in the Tribe of the Curious.


Hompage photo credit: mr.smashy via Compfight cc


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