04/13/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Guns and Liquor

Recently, at the behest of the gun lobby, a number of states have enacted laws allowing weapons to be taken into establishments that serve alcohol. Now, I do not know the arguments that were made to rationalize this idiocy, a moderately intelligent first grader can tell you why this is dumb, I can only state that as one who grew up with guns, and has hunted every huntable creature in the south, the only time I've ever pulled the trigger on something that I wasn't aiming at was while I was under the influence of hard liquor.

What follows is a perfect illustration of just how effective alcohol can be at compartmentalizing the various components of ones supposed IQ.

Some months ago an old girlfriend came by for a visit. She was having a bit of a tough time. Her new role as a "single parent" was much more burdensome than she'd ever anticipated; her work had become less satisfying, and she felt she was not controlling her life with the skill she'd always enjoyed.

She was also fearful of living alone with her young son in a semi-rural area, and wanted my advice on handguns. I had already loaned her my dad's old 12 gauge Winchester automatic, but she felt she needed something smaller and easier to access.
I spent the next ten or fifteen minutes explaining how the shotgun was the perfect weapon for someone not adept with weaponry, that it's really noisy and at close range it'll hit what it's pointed at, and with five rounds of #4 shot in the plugless chamber, she could hold off an entire herd of even the most aggressive intruders.

It was at this point that she asked me if I had any tequila. (In the movies they call this a "plot point", something that takes the story in a different direction).

An hour later the bottle was half empty, and I'd used much of that time to relate how I'd spent the final months of my stateside military service, instructing army wives on the usage of the .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun. And if she was intent on acquiring a small weapon for the home, this was it. Then she asked if I had one.

I did.

The old WW2 issue Remington .45 was still in it's original shoulder holster, with 1943 stamped on it, and was wrapped in a towel and crammed way into the back of a cedar armoire. I removed the weapon gingerly, the leather was getting a bit dry, popped out the full clip and cleared the chamber, leaving the slide back.

I retook my position next to my friend who was sitting at a large work desk just off the kitchen. While I was gone she'd refilled the shot glasses with more tequila. Good, that four step trip to the armoire and back had left me with a helluva thirst.

For the next thirty minutes or so I regaled her with grand stories about the history of the piece, and even grander ones about my mastery of it. How it's triple no-fire safety features made it almost impossible to discharge accidentally, of it's prodigious knock-down power, and the NOISE that it makes ... I even field stripped it, put it back together, and then handed it to her so she could tactiley sense the weight and perfect balance of this classic handgun.

We downed the last two shots left in the bottle of tequila. She fondled the .45 for a bit and then handed it back to me, slide back, chamber cleared, just like it was when I'd handed it to her.

I took it, wrapping my fingers around it in all the proper places, and with it pointing safely away from either of us, I eased the full magazine up into the grip. I heard the clip click. But the next sound ... well, it was unexpected.


When the slide slid forward it shoved a round into the chamber, and the tequila in my brain forgot to remind me that I had my finger on the trigger. That's what had caused the big Kaboom.

I just sat there looking at the weapon, like the idiot I was. After a few seconds I looked up at her. She had her hands over her ears, her mouth open and was staring somewhat ape-eyed at me. I saw her lips move, but she spoke in such a low whisper I could barely hear her, but since my ears were still ringing from the blast, she could've been shouting. "Did you mean to do that?"

In past times when I've done something really stupid in front of another I've usually just let loose with a paragraph or two of B.S. to explain that I had every intention of doing what I had just done. But this was one of those times when my PhD. in bull was useless; all genius has its limits. And I took no comfort in this revelation.

"Uh Uhh," was all I could get out, even my fondness for obfuscatory polysyllables during these moments had been neutralized by the big Kaboom.

I eased my thumb in front of the hammer and slowly let it return to the no fire position. Then I turned my head toward the kitchen to survey the damage.

My refrigerator. I had shot my damn refrigerator.

I opened the door and something deep red ran out onto the tile in quick rivulets. Jeez, I thought, I musta hit an artery. I had. Ocean Spray Cranberry, the Aorta sized bottle.

I quickly put a tourniquet on the Juice container, toweled up the floor and put the old .45 back where it belonged ... in it's holster, wrapped in a towel and crammed into the deep recess of the cedar armoire. I slid the empty tequila bottle in beside it. Such a wedding of two dangers, one was not likely to forget, but I was taking no chances.

I then retook my seat across from the eyewitness to the Ocean Spray slaying. She was looking up at the ceiling and around the room, working her jaw muscles trying to get her ears to equalize so we could communicate again. After a couple of deep breaths she dropped her gaze on me.

"I appreciate that lesson Sam, but you know since I'm not an expert like you, I think I'll just stick with the shotgun."

I found the shell casing the next day and stuck it in the hole in the door of the refrigerator. I'd had an emotionally painful experience called a "comeuppance." And painful or not, they are always great equalizers. I just can't wait to have another one.

And if you know of a lawmaker who's considering a vote somewhere on the issue of guns in bars, please send this along. Maybe my story will un-compartmentalize his IQ. Most good old boys toting heat in bars haven't had my training, and are unlikely to be able to shoot through a crowd and hit only a refrigerator full of Ocean Spray.