Dick's Sporting Goods web site

Speed Test: DMV vs Guns

December 18, 2012

Someone said it’s harder to get a driver’s license than buy a semi-automatic rifle like the one used in the massacre in Connecticut. Needing to renew my license, I decided to test the claim today. After the Oregon DMV in North Portland was so efficient — or my timing so good, I wondered why bother with the comparison. I was in and out in only seven minutes. The process included a brief wait, vision test, new photo, and writing a $40 check. Granted I didn’t have to take a written or driving test.

Next stop: the nearby Dick’s Sporting Good. I knew the time comparison to the DMV could be close because Oregon requires no permit for rifles. Federal law requires retailers to do a background check of prospective buyers via computer that reportedly takes a few minutes at most. No fee required. Private dealers are exempt from the federal law. I had checked the Dick’s web site yesterday and found 12 types of semi-automatic rifles for sale (partial screenshot above). They included four models of the Bushmaster brand that Adam Lanza used to destroy so many lives in Newtown. Dick’s grouped them as Modern Sporting Rifles. I was about to see one up close and personal.

I feigned nonchalance as I waited for service behind two customers. We faced a wall of weaponry. They chatted about gun control. “Soon we’ll only have knives to use on each other,” one said. They left before the sales clerk approached me. When I asked about Bushmasters, he waited a few seconds as if carefully considering his response. “Had to take them down,” he said.

Turns out Dick’s told its roughly 500 stores in 44 states stores to remove all semi-automatic rifles for an unspecified period and today posted an announcement on its web site. The site no longer lists Modern Sporting Rifles as a category or displays any of the rifles. Meanwhile, Bushmaster, a North Carolina company, faces an uncertain future.

My speed test was a lark devoid of humor. It left me wondering why driving a car imparts no overwhelming sense of power, at least at my age. (Maybe that’s because I drive something old and tame.) Gazing at the shotguns and single-shot rifles on the wall at Dick’s, I recalled junior high days roaming orange groves with friends who had guns. We declared our budding manhood with sound and fury and destruction until the bullets and shells ran out.