In a previous post (here) I talked about a basic handgun course I attended, and expressed an interest in buying a handgun.
I took another step recently by applying for a Permit to Purchase, which is required to buy a handgun in Minnesota. I applied by filling in a couple of forms with lots of information about myself, then submitted them at a building down town with a cheque for some not very significant amount. I presume this is in order that a criminal records check can be performed. The permit arrived in the post a week or so later.
A few weeks after that I decided to make it happen, and so I left school early one afternoon and drove to Bills Gun Shop and Range with a plan.
Step one: I enter the shop and mooch about until someone offers me assistance, which I accept.
Step two: Walk around for half an hour picking up lots of hand guns, pointing them at the floor, and asking questions.
Step four: Retire downstairs to the range where I hire said handguns and shoot a box of 50 rounds through them.
Step five: Feel undecided, so purchase another box of 50 rounds and shoot them as well.
Step six: Leave the range, still undecided, and mooch about the shop thinking until I make a decision.
Step seven: Make a decision (Glock 17) just in time to prevent another customer from buying the same gun (last one in the shop).
Step eight: Start the paperwork (Oh the paperwork!)
(Going back a bit) I had decided upon a 9mm after a lot of thinking. Initially I wanted to pick up a .45 Auto such as the colt 1911, but it occurred to me that the ammunition is more expensive and the recoil harsher, and since I am new to this “gun that fits in one hand” thing I should probably get something else for my first handgun. I then considered .40S&W, as a compromise between 9mm and .45 Auto, but after more thinking I decided that I didn’t really want a .40S&W in and of itself, but rather as a next best thing to a .45. With this in mind I decided upon a 9mm as a cost effective option that would allow me to get a lot more practice for my money and be less likely to teach me bad habits from the recoil.
(Back in the shop) I stood at the counter with one of the staff (random aside: most of the staff were carrying firearms) and filled in a form, then I filled it in again because I made a mistake, and then again because I made a different mistake. This is the form that gets sent to the “Federal Government” and any mistakes will result in the application being denied (I think). A mistake can include putting something in the wrong box and crossing it out. This took a while.
Next, the person helping me had to fill in another part of my successful form, gun serial numbers, permit numbers, etc., and make a phone call to someone in the “Federal Government” (I don’t know who he was calling, possibly the ATF) to whom he read out most of the details on the form. Then we waited. While we waited he told me that the people he was calling had three options, they could approve, deny, or defer. He thought that since I am foreign and not a citizen that they would probably defer, eventually they did exactly that.
I was then informed that the department of the government that he had just called (“Federal Government”) had four days (might have been three, I get hazy on the details) to either approve or deny the application. If they hadn’t responded (by phone, to the shop) within the four (or three) days then I would be free to pick up the gun from the shop. So I left the shop empty handed with the instructions to return four days later unless I was called by them first.
The next morning I was called by the shop to be told that I was approved (why wouldn’t I be?) and I could pick up the gun any time I cared to.
I cared to that same afternoon.
(Back in the shop) I am back at the counter with another member of staff, and there is more paperwork. More forms are filled in and double checked, then double checked again by another member of staff ( I get the impression this is taken very seriously by someone). After about 30 minutes everything is done, I have bought extra things like a phosphor bronze brush and a spray can that turns out not to do what I thought it did (should have read the label properly), and I am the proud owner of a brand new Glock 17 9mm.
This is pretty exciting for me, and it would be a shame (and quite frustrating) to take a brand new Glock 17 9mm home unfired, and so I go back to the range for the second time in two days and fire another 50 rounds into the backstop.
(Some thoughts) The process was in some ways a lot simpler than buying a gun in the UK, but in other ways a lot more complicated. In the UK I would have to fill in a few forms, jump through a few hoops, and wait a good few weeks to apply for a Firearms Certificate. But once I had it in hand I could go to a shop, buy a gun, and be out in 15 minutes with the gun. The only paperwork I would have to do would be an advisory letter to the licensing department alerting them to the fact that I had bought a gun and giving them the details for their records (there are more facets to the system but they are not relevant to my point). This system places the weight at the start of the transaction (gun ownership) so the actual act of buying a gun is quite simple. The US (or specifically the Minnesota) system eschews licensing and so what legalities there are must be processed at the time of purchase. I don’t want to get into a debate of the systems, I just highlight an interesting contrast of experience. I personally found the Minnesota experience to be very interesting and only vaguely onerous (I dislike paperwork).
Another thought concerns the gun itself. I have never owned an iconic firearm. I own many guns that share features with iconic firearms, but none a random passer by would be able to ascribe a make and model to. This handgun, the Glock 17, is famous in popular culture, and in professional circles where people actually need (or are required) to carry firearms. Also the gun I own is identical in every way to these guns, it was given no limits or handicaps in order to be made available to the general public. I may not have explained myself very well, for which I apologise, but I find this very interesting and so felt the need to express it.
As my skills progress with this handgun I will probably decide to take more lessons.
I will keep you updated.