Letter from Louisiana

The following is a slice of Louisiana life from Ken Ringle, friend, boat partner and retired Style writer from The Washington Post. Consider it a New Year’s gift from me. TFS

Friends of Liberty:

In my never-ending effort to spread the gospel of Louisiana culture, I thought I should apprise you of my latest adventure which involved acquiring a modest .22 caliber pistol with which to deter, no, actually CANCEL the armadillos uprooting my yard and bamboo grove. Most of us believe, however grudgingly, that we need SOME sort of sensible gun control (at least at Virginia Tech) to keep the more extreme firearms (bazookas, RPGs, howitzers, etc.) out of the hands of the more paranoid and hallucinatory members of the general public, and/or those who believe that, while game animals are sometimes out of season, one’s fellow man never is. On the other hand, a major entertainment for some of us is documenting the Kafkaesque channels down which causists and legislators gallop while allegedly in pursuit of that goal. Makes you wanna vote for Ron Paul.

My favorite example of the above was the DC gun law, in force for some 30 years until it was finally overturned recently by the Supremes, which stated that you COULD (after elaborate and redundant, application, registration etc.) keep a firearm in your house for self defense, provided you kept it unloaded and disassembled at all times. You needed a separate license to move it into another room. Each time.

Anyway, we in Louisiana take a somewhat less stringent approach. You might expect that from a state that has drive-through daiquiri bars. We don’t care how many guns you have or, in general, where you get them or what kind they are. Up at Lafayette Shooters in Lafayette they stock enough ordnance to replay Vietnam, if not WWII. You can walk right out with a bolt-action bipod-equipped 50-caliber rifle, and if you like instant ground venison, that’s the weapon for you. Firearmswise, Louisiana makes Florida look like a Quaker state.

Thus, when I set out to buy my pistol, I didn’t expect a lot of trouble. The Brady law says that if you have a legitimate residence in two separate states, you are subject to the gun laws of whichever of those states you’re in when you purchase your peacemaker. I have a house in Louisiana, and I’m here so no problem. Thus my friend Mo and I set out one Saturday for one of the periodic gun shows held at the performing arts center in Lafayette. That will give you an idea of our priorities down here. When we arrived 30 minutes after the show opened, the parking lot was already filled with gun-racked pickup trucks. There were well over 1,000 Bubbas inside and a dazzling array of firepower dispersed over a couple of acres of floor space. And while there were a disturbing number of black assault rifles, extended clips, etc. (you could pick up a Bushmaster like that used by the DC sniper for under $300) most of those present appeared just cheerful hunters and other lock-and-load toy collectors. There was a distinct absense of the shifty-eyed militia types you see at such events in Montana or even Virginia. Almost no swastikas and Nazi regalia. And while there WAS one small table back in the corner peddling “The Truth About the War on the South”, “Memoires of a Pure Plantation Lady” and DVDs of– not “Birth of a Nation” but “Song of the South”!!– they got little business. Our first attempted sales contact was a tallish octogenerian lady of quiet dignity and silver hair. She looked like one of those women your Mother introduced you to at church.

“Have you tried the handle on this new version of the Red Terror”, she asked Mo with a smile, handing him a monster chrome .44 caliber revolver that would have shamed Dirty Harry. “I believe it’s going to be the real new thing.” She might have been passing the plate at Sunday service. Other vendors included pregnant moms trailing toddlers among the ammo clips and Czech bayonets and bored teenagers helping Dad unload the over-and-under 12-gauge.

Mo, who once did covert ops in Vietnam, moved among the booths and tables with the practiced aplomb of a chef gauging truffles. He had his heart set on a lever action frontier model Henry Rifle. It fires a 22-caliber bullet about twice as long as normal, a flat-trajectory critter slapper just made for the feral hogs that, freed by some past hurricane, quickly grow monster tusks and tear up the marsh like overweight porcine biker gangs. He didn’t expect to find the exact model he wanted but did, forked over the cash and started looking pleased. Meanwhile I had found my baby, a Walther P-22, plinker model of the James Bond gun, which comes complete with a laser sight. Just paint an armadillo between the eyes with that little red dot, and that sucker can kiss his scaley behind goodbye.

Actually, armadillos are kissing goodbye all the time. They hitched over here from Texas aboard the oil pipe trucks years ago and have been breeding and dying at a prodigious rate ever since. They give birth to four cloned offspring of the same sex and apparently identical pattern each time. I’m not certain how they do that, because armadillo sex is something of a mystery. A couple of purportedly authentic YouTube videos show the male mounting the female but not so much humping her as driving her around like a fork-lift. They would not seem to be made for love, but they certainly are made for death. They are incredibly stupid, nearsighted and hard of hearing and, when startled, leap straight up about three feet off the ground. This may be all right in the woods, but on the Interstate it serves them right up into the sweet spot of your average 18-wheeler front bumper, which is why so many defunct dillos are glimpsed 24/7 toes up on the highways of Louisiana. How their birth rate stays ahead of their death rate is another mystery, but it does, and they root up everything making burrows, which they will happily share with snakes, lizards, rats and other vermin, but only with another armadillo of the same sex. Hmmmmmm……

Anyway, that’s why I need my Walther. I found two, and quickly went for the one $75 cheaper. When we came to the paperwork to register the sale, I explained that I only had a DC driver’s license, but showed them my checkbook listing my Avery Island address. The 300 pound Momma from Big Al’s Gunshop in Pineville said that was fine but I needed a state issued ID attesting to my Pelican State bona fides. I asked how to get one. I was told at the DMV that I would need a birth certificate, my Social Security card and my passport or DC driver’s license. “All those say I live in DC,” I said. “How will that prove I’m also a Louisiana resident.” “We just want to know you’re who you say you are,” I was told. “You can put any Louisiana address on it you want.”

Nonetheless this surreal ID process could not be completed until Monday, so I couldn’t buy the Walther. Theoretically Mo could have bought it for me, but it’s against the law for anyone to purchase a weapon for someone else, so we couldn’t do that. But you know what? Darned if Mo didn’t decide as he was walking out the door that HE had to have a Walther just like the one I wanted. Surprising, huh? And son of a gun, on the way home he decided he didn’t want it any more and asked if I would like to buy it. Since private gun sales are perfectly legal, we transacted the deal, then went promptly to his personal target range at the edge of his sugar field and put a couple hundred rounds through that sucker. The laser is just too cool.

–Ken Ringle