Gun Control

by Tom Tolnay
About the Author:More than 50 of Tom Tolnay's stories have appeared in consumer, university and literary periodicals (including Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Hard-Boiled) in the US, Canada, and UK. A collection of Tom's stories, PROFANE FEASTS, will be published later this year by Scarlet Leaf Publishing House in Toronto, Canada.

Chewing on a swig of cheap whiskey, Pug, a logger, sputtered to Brendan, the bartender: “Government’s barking … up the wrong goddamn tree again.”

“Every gun-owner in America knew there’d be a knee-jerk reaction soon as that psycho stole the automatic and tore up those folks.”

“Helluva tragedy,” said the logger, his red-checkered wool jacket unzipped halfway down his chest.

“Really feel bad for the families,” said the bartender, co-proprietor, with his wife, of the White Pines Saloon: With moss thriving on its cedar shingles and a dented sheet-metal-wrapped door loose on its hinges, the tavern seemed to have been dropped by mistake, with little prospect for economic gain, on a plot of scrub-brush west of Glens Falls, bordering millions of forested acres in upstate New York.

“Same here, only I’m getting fed up with feds blaming law-abiding citizens for what some lunatics did.”

“It’s gotten outta hand,” the bartender concurred, plucking the five-dollar bill off the bar and tucking it into the pocket of his denim apron.

“Did you catch that liberal columnist yesterday?—digging up that dead horse about early Americans using single-load muskets so the Second Amendment doesn’t cover today’s weapons.”

“How’s about that bitch on TV who said there’s no legitimate reason for civilians to be armed with 30-cartridge magazines,” Brendan added. “They’re only for military purposes,” he squealed, attempting to parody the voice of the commentator.

“That’s bullshit—I trigger my AR-15 in target practice all the time.” The logger palmed his hairy chin decisively as if to validate his own statement.

Under his breath Brendan murmured, “There’s a guy comes in here sometimes who cut down a white tail with an AK-47.”

“You serious?”

“Course there wasn’t much left of Bambi,” he sniggered, “but he did manage to get a decent set of antlers outta the kill.”

“Trouble with that kind of thing,” Pug grumbled, “is that gives hunters a bad name.”

“Yeah, but what worries me a lot more are these new restrictions the state put on the books.”

“And behind closed doors, without letting voters know what they were up to.”

“I’ll tell you straight up,” Brendan said, “there’s no way I’m gonna let them take any of my guns from me.”

“With logging cutting back in the North Country, I just may move out of New York so I can hang onto what belongs to me—handed out cash for my firearms fair and square.”

A late-thirties, russet-skinned man in an Army fatigue jacket, sitting alone in shadows at a two-foot square table to the rear, stuffed four one-dollar bills into his drained glass. He pressed his leathery hand on the tabletop to help himself stand up and, without looking toward the two men at the bar, limped past them. The logger watched him drag his left leg to the front of the tavern while the bartender eyed the greenbacks in the tall glass at the table. Pressing open the door—letting in a rush of chilled air, the man in the Army jacket disappeared into the melting afternoon. In a minute the two men heard a vehicle start up and thunder away.

“What’ll happen when terrorists start hittin’ us right here on our own soil?” said Brendan. “It’s comin’, you know—not on a scale like 9/11. Just small gangs of suicidal bastards shoutin’ ‘God is great!’ with bombs strapped to their chests under those pajamas they wear.”

“How does Washington expect us to defend our way of life against Islamic fanatics if they ban the sales of ARs?”

“Tell you a little secret,” Brendan half whispered, though no one else was in the tavern. “Ever since the FBI nailed a coupla terrorists in New York and California, I never leave the house without one of my weapons,” glancing toward a narrow, upright cabinet in a dim corner behind the bar.

“You’re not the only one—and I keep mine loaded,” Pug revealed, returning the favor of secrecy.

“Last week I was out shoppin’ at the mall with my family for a birthday present for my oldest—Mickie’s into video games. Suppose some al-Qaida-sympathizer had whipped out a semi and started mowin’ down innocent shoppers: Would the cops have showed up in time to save my family? No freakin’ way!”

You can purchase this short story from our website.
Visit us at