MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. —
Paskey, Edwards' traveling companion, is a Tea Party person, because he's concerned about government spending and the national debt. Still, Edwards treasures Paskey's friendship because the two have interesting conversations about science and guns and history.
The two men invite me to visit them at their shooting station, and Edwards offers to let me to shoot his machine gun, a belt-fed Browning ANM2. During World War II it was a rear-facing aircraft gun, and he says it's so much fun to shoot.
As a child I lived on an Arizona ranch with my parents, cowboys, horses, cattle, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and guns. I wasn't allowed to touch my mother's pistol, which she kept on the top row of the bookshelf (she stored the ammo in her lingerie drawer), or my father's shotgun, ensconced on the top shelf of his closet, near the Christmas decorations. My father and the cowboys used their guns to euthanize suffering domestic animals, or to kill the rare wild animal that posed an imminent threat, or to hunt game, or for self-defense.
Like 43 percent of Americans, I have a gun in my home. I know how to shoot my pistol. But this is the first time I've ever shot a machine gun.
I sit on an empty wooden box that once held Winchester ammunition manufactured in Portugal. I sight the Browning, which shines in the sun and is anchored on a tripod. With the sight fixed on a white barrel in the wash, I pull the trigger: pop pop pop pop pop pop . . . pillows of buff-tinted dust billow around the white barrel.
I'm much too frugal to shoot machine guns.
Mindful of ammo costs, I stop. Edwards wants me to shoot the entire belt, about 250 rounds. I do.