Bubba always loved guns. Gramps gave him his first .22 when he was nine years old, a Remington pump. That was one of the many reasons Bubba joined the Marine Corps, back in The Nam, in the time of the M-14. Bubba is pretty gray these days, but he still gets kind of weepy when they play the band and raise the flag, and he can still tell you the names of the guys in his platoon, and whether they are still alive or not.
Few years ago, Bubba was at a yard sale, and he saw the guy was selling a nice old M-14. Sure, it was de-selectorized and only semi-automatic, legal as home-brew beer, but it looked good to Bubba, and he gave the guy five hundred bucks for it. Nothing he liked better than just taking that big old gook-shooter out for a walk in the boonies back of town and snapping in and snapping off a few rounds, just to hear her bark.
As Bubba and his pals had a lot of guns off and on, and they traded them around quite a bit, he often as not just didn't go volunteer to register them. Not that he was an outlaw, but just that there were things he figured even a patriotic American like himself should prefer to be none of the government's business. Guns was one of those things. So he just never got around to registering his M-14.
Recently he got introduced to the light and snappy little Mini-14, and he liked it and thought it was fun for plinking, and he went to the local gun dealer and bought himself one. The dealer pointed out to him that the purchasing process these days involves registering the gun, which meant filling out a stack of information identification papers, and prompting a law enforcement background check to make sure no guns were falling into the wrong hands. Bubba was still a Marine at heart, and used to putting up with that kind of bullshit paperwork and procedure, so he just filled in the papers, and jawed with the guy at the dealership, a nice kid whose dad had been in Vietnam too.
One day recently he was sitting at home, and the doorbell rang, and there were two uniformed troopers at his door. One of them was a guy he had seen down at the VFW bar, wearing the brown of the Sheriff's department, nice enough guy, kind of a big-mouth jock type, ex-Army, Iraq. The other was a young woman in a uniform he didn't quite recognize, tight with a lot of leather belts and Velcro patches. She smiled and asked him if he was who he was, and when he said he was, she told him, "I'm your new Firearm Statute Conformance Assistance Officer, and I have come to report that according to our records, you are in possession of a firearm that has been placed on the list of Category 264-A weapons. Those are now forbidden."
Bubba said, "I don't know nothing about that."
"Haven't you read The Patriot Act?" she asked.
"Hell, Officer, uh…Garcia, that thing is bigger than two Harry Potters and the Book of Urantia," Bubba said. "Nobody has read The Patriot Act."
"Ignorance of the law does not excuse you from obeying it," she said. "We have come to accept your voluntary surrender of the illegal weapon."
Bubba shrugged, bewildered.
"The Mini-14," the Deputy explained.
"You got to be kidding," Bubba protested. "I bought it legal and registered it. It's not a machine gun, and I don't have a record. You can't just come and take it. Duuh, Second Amendment."
She sighed patiently, and recited, "According to Category 264-A, and in conformance with Presidential Executive Bowel Movement 264, as confirmed by the Department of Homegrown Severity, the Mini-14 semi-automatic sports rifle registered to you, serial number ending in O4Q2, is now a prohibited weapon. You've got to give it to us."
"What if I don't?" Bubba asked. "What if I stand on my rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution, and I refuse to voluntarily surrender my rifle?"
"Hell, you know the answer to that, Bubba," the Deputy said. "If you refuse to surrender your semi-automatic sports rifle, according to 264-A, it then becomes defined as a prohibited likely-terrorist para-military assault rifle you are concealing. If you resist arrest and are known to be in possession of such a weapon, you will be dealt with using appropriate defense against such weapons. Hell fire, Bubba, you know all of us down at the bar. You know how it is. If you got crazy enough to put up a fight, we could call in the B-52's, and I don't mean Fred Schneider's band."
"All right," said Bubba. "I don't think it's right, but the law is the law, and I am a patriotic and law-abiding citizen." So he gave them the Mini-14, and signed the papers. They stood there watching him, waiting.
Finally the Deputy said, "Well?"
Bubba said, "What?"
"Goddammit," Deputy said, slapping his thigh. "I was afraid you were going to do it, Bubba. Breaks my heart to see a good man go bad." He pulled a paper out of his pocket. "This here's a warrant. We're here to search this premises for one contraband 7.62 millimeter military assault rifle, M-14, serial number unknown, registration unknown, and now on the list of Category 264-A-1 suspected terrorist weapons, which you are now herewith accused of attempting to conceal from law enforcement, that is, us."
"Where'd you get a warrant saying I've got an M-14?" Bubba asked.
"Aw, fer Christ sake, Bubba, we've got an informant. We've always got an informant, you know that." He shook his head, reached for his hand cuffs.
"You mean like one of my friends reported I've got an M-14? One of my neighbors? One of my brothers down at the bar, maybe? Or somebody in, what was your agency, uh, Garcia?"
"Firearm Statute Conformance Administration, HSD, INC," she said. "You are under arrest. You know your Mirandas, now gimme your handas." She circled her finger to tell him to turn around.
"Just a second," Deputy said. "Where is the M-14."
Bubba put up both of his hands. "I keep it right here above the door," he said, and he took it down from the rack, looking them right square in the eyeballs. Deputy leaped up like the linebacker he used to be, and he had his .44 Magnum right in Bubba's face, but Garcia stopped him. She whipped out a little Star Trek zap gun thing and zapped Bubba with it. By the time he stopped twitching, they had him cuffed in a chair with the light in his face.
"Why didn't you let me shoot him?" Deputy whined.
"I'm with Conformance Assistance," she reminded him. "I'm here to help him. I also don't like to waste an asset." She turned to Bubba. "Are you a skinhead?" she asked him. "Are you still a member of the Timothy McVeigh Unit of the Neo-Nazi war underground?"
"No!" Bubba said.
"Are you prepared to give us the names of the other members of your sleeper group?" she asked.
"No, what do you mean, give you names? What the hell is this? What sleeper group?" he asked.
"Oh, you no-good turncoat son of a bitch," Deputy snarled. "Now you're covering up for the others."
"The others who like yourself are hoarding prohibited weapons," said Garcia, "perhaps to gather together on a moment's notice to conduct acts of terrorism."
"Why the hell would I do that?" Bubba spluttered.
"That is what we are asking you," she said, "and what we would like to ask the others."
"What others? I don't know any others."
"Of course you do," she said patiently. "One of them gave us your name."
"And you had the nerve to show your sorry face down at the VFW, you being a closet terrorist supporter all along," Deputy said, his righteous rage raising his veins to pulse on his forehead.
"This is Federal," Garcia warned him, "and if you refuse to cooperate, you can be prosecuted, or just detained. Let me explain something. The Constitution guarantees the right to own arms, but that does not mean all arms. It is a felony to possess some firearms. It is also a felony to know about a felony and fail to report it. That is called misprision in the courtroom, and it will be prosecuted. If you know that anyone is in felonious possession of a firearm, and you do not tell us about it, then you are guilty of that felony, and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, do you understand that?"
"Hell, yes, he understands it," said the Deputy. "Let me make this easy for you, Bubba, you might as well cooperate. You know crazy old Buddy down at the VFW? You know he is always bragging about his guns, shooting his face off. Now you tell me, what kind of guns do you know from listening to him does he have? And you know exactly what guns I'm talking about."
Bubba did know. He had even seen them. "All right," he said, "everybody has heard him say he's got a Thompson…and a BAR. Does that make me an informant now?"
Garcia turned and spoke to her lapel. "Let the record report that the subject has admitted knowing defendant #U81 was in possession of an illegal firearm," she said.
"It had better," Deputy said. "You have two choices. One is to be arrested and processed as a potential terrorist and armed insurgent combatant against the United States of America, and transported to Nicaragua to be questioned. If you survive that, you could get a hearing in about five years. The other alternative is to try to redeem yourself as a decent American citizen by active cooperation with law enforcement as an agent informant. If you choose to do that, you will be booked, processed, and back on the street about five this afternoon."
"What do you want me to do?" Bubba asked.
"Friday night, you and I will both be at the VFW bar, just like always, just guys that know each other there, friends, just like we used to be," the Deputy explained. "What you are going to do is get guys talking about their guns, and get them to admit they've got hidden guns, so that I am able to overhear them. Your testimony plus my testimony ain't hearsay, it's a warrant and a bust. That's it."
"You can come in weekly for your depositions," Garcia informed him. "We will ask you questions about people you know, and whether they own firearms or other things. You will tell us everything we need to know to help bring them into proper Statute Conformance."
Bubba just shook his head in amazement. "So we'll all be down at the bar together, and some of us are wearing a wire trying to get the others to talk about their guns so you guys can take them away and put them on a wire too, right? So how will I know if somebody I'm talking to is also wearing a wire, or if he's somebody I'm trying to catch?"
"You won't," said the Deputy, "but they'll be trying to get you to admit to owning firearms we don't know about yet. We don't know what you might have, and you can't prove what you don't have, but sooner or later, we are going to hound-dog out every one of you."
"Well, fer Christ sake," Bubba said, "sooner or later that means all of us will be on one end of a wire or the other."
"I always suspected there was something funny about you," the Deputy sneered, "ever since you got in that guy's face trying to defend that Chief Warrant they threw out for being a fag. Holy shit, twenty five years in the Army, two Silver Stars, and queer as a pickled octopus. That is a damned insult to every soldier he ever served with."
"He was a Medevac pilot," Bubba said. "He hung his ass out farther than anybody else to save other guys. He happened to have saved my ass."
"Oh, I wonder why?" the Deputy mused, ironically, sardonically.
Bubba sighed, nodded in resignation. "This is a terrible surprise to me. You know I'm always a strong supporter of law enforcement, or I thought I was. It amazes me you guys can believe in this being the land of freedom and rights, and still behave like this, and you seem to think it's just all in a day's work."
"Are you kidding?" Garcia asked. "We both grew up in law enforcement, with parents in the DEA. This is the way we have been treating people in the Drug War the last forty years. We cut our teeth coercing informants to bust potheads in their own families, and we got our bones bagging baby-buggy bombers in the backstreets of Baghdad. We are here to bring firearm safety, statute conformance, and freedom from terror to this sinful outlaw country America has become today, and we're the best at the job that's ever been."
"Ok, let's get some work done here," the Deputy said. "What about Bobby? To the best of your knowledge, Bubba, does Bobby have any bullets in his bunker? Don't get caught lying, now, because you don't know what we already know, and we're checking on you with every question. Does Bobby own a bazooka? Is he still one of your sleeper cell?"
Some people wonder why that crazy old Namvet Bubba hangs out down at the VFW bar, and why he drinks so much, and drives that funky old motorcycle of his so fast so late at night.
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