My assignment was a look at the issue of gun control in the United States ahead of the 2018 midterm election.
It’s always a contentious issue, but made more so by the slaughter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in which six people were killed by a man that expressed anti-Semitic remarks.
It’s no secret we look for characters to tell our stories. I had found a character in Colorado Springs, Colorado, named Mel Bernstein, who everyone knows as “Dragonman”.
He has thousands of guns, and tons of military hardware on his sprawling property. Go on the internet and check this place out, it has to be seen to be believed.
I had two conversations with Dragonman before my scheduled trip out to Colorado.
I arrived and he greeted me in his store, an upbeat, likable guy. But then I hit a roadblock.
Dragonman’s daughter, who helps her father run the business came out of the office, and long story short said: “The camera shoot wasn’t going to happen.”
She reminded me of ’90s alternative rocker Fiona Apple, just a lot tougher. We discussed the issue for 30 or so minutes, but she was unyielding.
Dragon’s daughter asked we not use her name, and I will abide by that wish.
The bottom line, she was worried her outspoken father would get caught up in the hotly debated issue, say something he didn’t mean, and our story would end up making Dragon look bad, and hurt business.
Opportunity lost. I think gun supporters would have only supported Dragon once he told his story. But, clearly a lot of others would really take issue with his stance.
Then I had the enviable task of calling the office and say: “Oh, by the way you know that story we had set up yea, it isn’t going to happen.”
So, time to hit Google, and start calling all the gun shops in the Denver area and start over.
It may not be a news flash, but many gun store owners really don’t want to talk about gun control. Oh, they have their opinions on the issue, but in an environment where the U.S. president has made “Fake News” a mantra for his conservative supporters, most think they won’t get a fair shake by the press.
I called about 15 gun shops and heard everything from “No thanks”, “Let me think about and get back to you”, “Where are you from again?”, to the dreaded “#$^@ yourself”.
Finally I reached out to Shooter Ready, a gun shop in Denver. After pitching my story to owner Juan Lopez, I heard one word, “Sure.”
Juan was a great guy, and a great person to present the gun industry’s side. Juan showed me around his store, finally walking over to the section he called, sarcastically, where he keeps the “evil black guns.” He was referring to AR-15s. The semi-automatic rifle that has been used in so many mass shootings across the United States.
Juan was the exception. He answered all the questions, such as:
“Why does a civilian need a semi-automatic weapon?”
“Why do you think the U.S. government wants to take your guns away?”
And, why he prefers to call it a “firearm”, instead of a “gun”.
It was all interesting, and if you want to hear the answers to those questions – watch our story on CGTN.
And see how Juan addresses the issues that so many other gun owners wish would just go away.