Gun Wars // BLOG

Guns: A history lesson

Posted August 6, 2014
Bill Goodman, an antique firearms dealer, holds a .45-caliber buffalo gun in his backyard in Bozeman, Mont. Jessica Boehm

Bill Goodman, an antique firearms dealer, holds a .45-caliber buffalo gun in his backyard in Bozeman, Mont. Jessica Boehm

By Jessica Boehm

In Bill Goodman’s home in Bozeman, Montana, a hand-picked assortment of antique guns clutters the coffee table. One gun was used in the Zeigler polar expedition. Another was once aboard a Wells Fargo stagecoach.

As an antique firearms dealer for over 30 years, Goodman sees these historical guns as a window into the past.

One gun, a Winchester rifle from the 1880s, was likely used by Native Americans. Goodman considers the gun a link to a past culture and an insight into the hardships and struggles that the people endured.

“To me, it’s history,” Goodman said. “I don’t own these guns. I feel like I’m a caretaker of them.”

Goodman bought his first antique gun at 10 years old and became a dealer years later after reading books about gun collecting. Today, he deals and attends gun shows from “Maine to New Mexico and every place in between.”

In 1998, when former President Bill Clinton referred to gun shows as “illegal arms bazaars for criminals,” Goodman was at a gun show in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I looked around and, truthfully, it was just a bunch of middle-aged guys looking at rifles and shotguns and not exactly the criminal element,” Goodman said. “I think gun shows have been maligned that way.”

But Goodman says the gun control side and the media choose to focus on gun crime, as opposed to the other sides of gun culture, including gun collecting.

“This is a little more quiet, a little more cerebral,” Goodman said.

But the fear of gun control — especially under President Barack Obama’s administration — hasn’t been all bad for gun dealers. In fact, Goodman says he has Obama to thank for the recent success of the gun industry.

“That president has done more for gun ownership in America than all the others combined,” Goodman said. “He put the fear of confiscation — whether justified or not — into just about everyone’s mind. Suddenly guns flew off the shelves.”

Jessica Boehm is a News21 Hearst Fellow.

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