A cop’s gun. His sidearm. An extension of his right arm. It’s always there for him when or if he needs it, without fail.
A gun is an extremely low-maintenance friend, never asking for much in return for its dedication—a modest diet of fresh bullets along with a little Hoppes gun oil to wash them down, a bath every Saturday night, and don’t let them play in the rain and the dirt. Never drop them and always remember they sometimes experience “issues” when left alone with small children. That’s about it. Treat them well and with respect, and a cop’s gun will forever remain at his side.
If used and treated properly, guns can save lives. I can say this with authority because that’s exactly what mine did—save lives. However, guns are easily influenced, tending to mimic the habits and traits of the people they’re around—guns with good people do good things, while guns in the hands of bad people…well, you know.
Actually, I liked the feeling of a pistol on my side. Its weight was sort of comforting even though the constant gravity-induced downward-tugging at my belt could be a bit annoying at times. And there’s that thing about the hammer insisting that it tear a hole in the lining of every jacket I owned. It’s…well, it was pretty darn aggravating, but you get used to it. After all, a little patch, a needle and some thread, and you’re back in business.
The third member of a detective’s close and limited circle of workplace BFF’s is his take-home car. They drive them for so long that the foam seat cushions conform nicely to the shape of their aging and constantly morphing rear-ends.
Unlike the silent relationship with guns, detectives, who most often work alone, have been known to talk to their cars, using them as sounding boards for working out case details or ideas. For example, at 3 A.M., after working a case for 36 straight hours with very few clues and/or evidence to ponder, a detective has a seat in his unmarked car to take a break and gather his thoughts. In a matter of minutes he’s thinking out loud…talking to his car. “That bit of spatter on the ceiling makes no sense, does it? How did it…”
And let’s not overlook the graveyard shift sing-a-longs that help keep officers awake once the magic time-to-fall-asleep-’cause-it’s-four-o’clock hour rolls around. Now, all of this solo singing and chattering is not an indication that anyone has stepped over into cop la-la-land. Instead, these actions each serve a legitimate purpose.
A detective’s car is fearless, and the bullet hole in the front fender is a constant reminder that the car “took” the one that was meant for the officer. Each ding, scratch, and dent has a backstory. There’s history forever etched into a detective’s car. Some good and some not so good.
Yep, the three make a great team—the brains (the detective), the brawn (the gun), and the…well, there’s no “B” for the car, but it’s definitely an integral part of the trio. They go everywhere together. They’re inseparable. Day-in and day-out. They’re together during the tough times and the good times. Through fights, saving lives, weddings and divorces. The three were side-by-side when the detective held the kid whose mother had just died in a car crash. And when he comforted the parents whose son took the overdose. When he sat behind the wheel and wept because he couldn’t reach far enough inside the burning car to pull the crying infant from the flames.
For twenty-five years, the three sacrificed everything to work in the rain, snow and unbearable heat. They put in grueling, long hours. They’ve worked with injured body parts and during times when the investigator’s family members were sick and dying.
And then the day finally comes…the day when the three are no more. The detective drives to work and parks, not in his old space, the one he’d parked in for years, but alongside a row of fleet cars…strangers. He walks inside for the last time and hands in the keys. Then it’s time to slip off the holster. The instant weight loss feels horrible. Sliding the badge across the desk is worse. But the three BFF’s have too many miles behind them to keep going. It’s time to say goodbye to a great team.
After all, there’s always a fish to catch or a burger to flip. A mall to guard, a nightstick to twirl, and shoplifters to nab. Flowers to plant and birdhouses to build. And let’s not forget those customers who need greeting. Besides, that little blue vest is downright sporty, dontcha’ think?
Guns. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve got to deal with them. They’re here and they’re not going anywhere any time soon. As writers, though, you probably handle them, if only in your minds, more often than the average person. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know what it is you’re trusting your characters to carry and use as part of their crime-fighting tool box. So, to help your heroes sound as if they really know their stuff, here are a dozen not-so-well-known firearm facts.
1. Not all firearms require official registration under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Those that do include machine guns, short-barrel rifles (barrel less than 16″ in length) and shotguns (barrel less than 18″ in length), silencers, gadget-type firearms (pen and cellphone guns, etc.), destructive devices, and what ATF calls “any other weapons.”
*Destructive devices include Molotov cocktails, bazookas, anti tank guns (over .50 cal.), and mortars. Interestingly grenade and rocket launchers that attach to military rifles are not considered to be destructive devices. However, grenades and rockets are listed as destructive devices.
Violators caught with a non-registered NFA firearm may be fined not more than $250,000, and imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
2. Dealers who sell gas masks must be registered with ATF. It takes 4-6 weeks for the agency to process the registration paperwork.
3. Parts or devices that are designed to convert a firearm into a NFA firearm must be registered with ATF.
4. The semi-automatic assault weapon (SAW) ban went into effect on September 13, 1994. The law made it illegal to manufacture or possess SAW’s. The law expired 10 years later on September 13, 2004.
5. The ban on large capacity ammunition feeding devices (magazines, belts, drums, etc.) went into effect on September 13, 1994. It, too, expired 10 years later, on September 13, 2004.
6. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is in place to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives (not a convicted felon or otherwise ineligible). The system is utilized each time someone purchases a firearm from a licensed dealer. NICS is maintained by the FBI. More than 100 million checks have been conducted since the system was initiated. 700,000 of those checks resulted in denials.
7. Muzzleloading cannons are NOT classified as destructive devices.
8. Machine guns may be legally transferred (sold) from one registered owner to another.
9. It is illegal to manufacture, import, and/or sell armor-piercing ammunition. However, this law does not apply to those who manufacture and sell armor-piercing ammunition to the government of the United States or any its departments or agencies, or to any state government or any department and/or agency thereof. It is also legal to manufacture and sell armor-piercing ammunition for the purpose of exporting to other countries.
ATF defines armor-piercing ammunition as:
(a) projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or
(b) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.
10. Brandish – to display all or part a firearm, or make it known a firearm is present, for the purpose of intimidating another. “Cops charged my cousin with brandishing a firearm. He’ll do six months in county for this one. It’s the second time he’s done it.”
11. It is illegal for persons convicted of crimes of violence to purchase or possess body armor.
12. Gun sales to foreign embassies on U.S. soil are considered exports; therefore, typical gun sale paperwork is not required. Instead, dealers need to obtain only one of the following – an official purchase order from the foreign mission, payment from foreign government funds, a written document from the agency head stating the weapons are being purchased by the embassy, not an individual. Standard laws apply to individual parties/diplomats.
Bonus – It is illegal to knowingly sell a gun to anyone who is an unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substances. It is also illegal to knowingly sell a firearm to someone has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution.
* * *
I’m goin’ home, gonna load my shotgun
Wait by the door and light a cigarette
If he wants a fight well now he’s got one
I’m gonna show him what little girls are made of
Gunpowder and lead
Miranda Lambert ~ Gunpowder and Lead