In Dan Baum’s new book, Gun Guys: A Road Trip, the gun-owning Boulder-based author tells of his encounters with several other gun owners through his signature style of long-form journalism. Baum has received high acclaim for his previous works, including Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans and Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty. We sat down with Baum earlier this week to get a preview on his newest story, which comes out March 7.
5280: When did you start on Gun Guys?
Dan Baum: It’s a book I always wanted to write. But really, it was the election of Obama and watching the gun guys go crazy. And then he’s inaugurated. And the gun guys are buying up guns like crazy. And the anti-gun people are noticing this and saying terrible things about the gun guys.
And it seemed to me that the NRA was making a lot of assumptions and the other side, [New York Senator Chuck] Schumer and [California Senator Dianne] Feinstein, are making a lot of assumptions about gun guys. But what nobody was doing was listening to them. Nobody was asking them, “What’s this about? Why are you so passionate about this?” They were just totally left out of the conversation. There are maybe 100 million gun owners in the United States and the NRA only has four million members. They represent this tiny little slice of extremists.
5280: In your Harper’s article, “Happiness is a Worn Gun,” you said your gun makes you feel more in-tune with the world. Or not in “Condition White,” as you put it. Did you get that same pulse from others?
DB: Yeah, everybody says the same thing. You wear a gun and you are Mr. Aware. The question is whether you like it. After a year and a half I stopped carrying [all the time]. I just carry it a little bit. I was up in Montana interviewing gun guys, so I carried it. I’m going to keep my training up. I’m going to keep my permit. I might, some day, feel like I want to carry again. But I found, ultimately, it wasn’t really for me. Which is not to say I object to anybody else carrying. I do think mandatory training should be a lot better.
5280: It’s pretty relevant timing for a book on guns. Did it just happen to work out that way?
DB: You know, there’s always something. Before this [the Sandy Hook shootings] was Aurora, before that was the Sikh Temple, before that was Gabby Gifford. The hits keep coming.
5280: How was the process of getting your gun in Colorado?
DB: You just go in and buy it. You go in and say, “I want that gun.” You fill out a form and they type the information into the computer and then you wait to be cleared. This is the instant background check. It usually takes 15 minutes. It can take as long as a few hours. If it takes longer than three days, they have to sell you the gun. The default is that you’re OK. Then, if it turns out you’re not OK, the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] will come and take the gun away, which must be a very unpleasant task.
—Image courtesy of Dan Baum