Back in August the family and I visited the World’s Longest Yard Sale, which stretches from Northeast Alabama all the way into Kentucky and Ohio. We visited the portion in Alabama that runs along what the local’s call “the mountain”. The mountain is actually two ridgelines running Southwest into Alabama from East Tennessee and Northwest Georgia, which are properly called Lookout Mountain (the eastern ridgeline) and Sand Mountain (the western). But the locals just call the whole area “the mountain”. The tops of both mountain ridges are worn to plateaus, and covered in fine, sandy soil, the remnants of an ancient ocean from which they arose as the petering foothills of the Appalachian chain of mountains stretching all the way to Maine. Though found in abundance along both plateaus, it is the sandy, loamy soil which gives Sand Mountain its name. The original settlers discovered that the soil is quite profitable for yeoman farming (but not large-scale plantations), and agriculture is still a leading industry in the area, mostly concentrated in raising beef cattle and broilers (chicken for eating). The area has got to be the whitest in Alabama. It is only in the last few years that an influx of Hispanic agricultural workers has tipped the cultural and racial scales ever so slightly away from whites.
It was at one of the last stops along the way that we encountered a group of men (all white) with several firearms for sale–mostly hunting rifles and shotguns, but there were a couple of AR-15’s, the civilian version of the military’s M-16. After mentioning how profitable gun sales had been since Obama was elected, I sort of joked that I bet gun dealers will be hoping he wins in November. I think I offended the whole crowd. There were vituperative “pffts” of air, and a visceral hatred of Obama in their replies. Realizing what I’d done, I just quietly slunk away. I love “the mountain”, and the people on it (I own some farm land up there), but need to work on my understanding of what tickles their funny bones before I go to cracking any more jokes.
As we were leaving, I told the wife that it didn’t make sense to me that people can’t see their own economic nose right in front of their face. Gun dealers and sporting goods shops and firing ranges and ammunition manufacturers have all made out like bandits since Obama was elected, as whites, clinging to their guns and religion just as Obama had described them, began stockpiling guns and ammo out of fear he might move to take away what they saw as a God-given right to keep and bear arms.
Then last night, I turned on the television to find that the Alabama Republican Party was holding its election night party at Hoover Tactical Firearms. Hoover Tactical Firearms is a shooting range and gun dealer located in the largest of the suburban cities surrounding Birmingham. Hoover (the name of the city) is overwhelmingly majority white, whereas Birmingham is overwhelmingly majority black. Siting an Alabama Republican Party event at Hoover Tactical Firearms sadly makes a great deal of political sense. I didn’t bother to attend so I didn’t get the chance to jokingly ask whether they were hoping for an Obama victory (the extent of my political involvement is observation), but I would probably have gotten about the same response there as I did on “the mountain”, even though they had to know his reelection would yield handsome profits, in a replay of the 2008 scenario. Even Bloomberg.com is reporting that gun manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson of Springfield, Massachusetts, and Sturm Ruger of Southport, Connecticut (blue state gun manufacturers!), are enjoying double-digit increases in their stock prices the day after Obama’s reelection (while the rest of the market tanks).
About a decade ago, Alabama’s then Governor Don Siegelman (a Democrat, now incarcerated) tried to win passage of an amendment to the Alabama Constitution to legalize gambling so he could set up a state lottery to fund, without direct taxation, the government initiatives he held dear, including paying for college tuition for worthy Alabama students, much as Georgia does. Alabama Republicans were vehemently opposed to the idea, and fought it with every resource at their disposal. It was eventually revealed that some of the money used to fight Siegelman’s proposal came from Mississippi Indian tribes who believed that once the door to gambling in Alabama was flung open with a constitutional amendment, their casino operations in Philadelphia (Mississippi) and Gulfport might be detrimentally impacted. Could the same type thing–funding being provided by groups who are engaged in the very thing being opposed as a matter of principled morality–have happened in the presidential campaign? Did the National Rifle Association surreptitiously fund or otherwise help to re-elect Obama?
We’ll probably never know. But the cold hard truth is that Obama has been the best thing that could have happened to what had become a gradually fading industry (the manufacture and sale of personal firearms, and the political protection of 2nd Amendment rights). Politics indeed makes strange bed fellows, and though the gun industry and its lobbies could not have openly supported Obama without suffering mightily at the hands of its most loyal clientele, there is no such thing as being too Machiavellian in achieving one’s political ends. In politics, there is no right or wrong, but only power. It is not at all far-fetched to imagine that gun manufacturers and sellers and the NRA were rooting for Obama to win. But it would be quite a scandal were it discovered that they acted on those impulses (just as the acceptance by Republicans of Mississippi Indian gambling money to ensure that gambling stayed illegal in Alabama generated quite a scandal), so they surely hid their tracks well if they did.
In the meantime, I bet that Hoover Tactical Firearms employees and owners, at the very least, breathed a sigh of relief about 10:00 pm last night, when Obama was announced the winner. Places like Hoover Tactical Firearms, where customers can shoot everything from single-shot pistols to automatic military assault weapons, simply would not have a reason to exist without the threat, real or imagined, presented by a President like Obama. And I bet those guys selling guns and rifles on the mountain will have had a pretty good year by then, if I happen to see them again at next year’s World’s Longest Yard Sale. I don’t think, though, that I’ll mention anything this time about the reason why.