The last box of ammo I bought was at the Jefferson Gun Outlet. It is a nondescript, inconspicuous one-story building on Airline Highway, a stone’s throw – or rifle shot – from the old Zephyr Stadium. It looks benign, more like a video game store than a purveyor of heavy weaponry.

On Saturday, Joshua Williams, of New Orleans, walked into the store with a clearly visible semi-automatic pistol with an extended clip. (For you non-gun enthusiasts, that means it has more bullets than a standard model gun.)

Bringing a gun to a gun shop is not unusual, particularly when said gun shop has a shooting range onsite. But the store’s rules ban loaded weapons in the retail area, where Williams was looming about. Employees asked him to please unload his weapon. Williams took offense.

Now, I think even the most libertarian of us realize that, in a civil society, rules are rules, particularly on private property. If a Dollar General store says you must wear a mask, then wear a mask. If a bowling alley says you must wear bowling shoes, then wear bowling shoes. And if a gun store says loaded weapons are not allowed except on the firing range, then unload your gun until you get to the range.

As noted, Williams objected. Words ensued. And before it was over, three people were dead – including Williams – and two hospitalized. The dead included a 59-year-old grandmother who was there to buy her first gun for protection, another customer who was shot in the back. And an employee of the shop. The two injured were also employees.

This is kind of a coals-to-Newcastle situation in reverse. Rule of thumb here, people: If you’re going to shoot up a retail outlet, best not to do it when everyone who works there is locked and loaded. All employees of all gun shops openly carry. It can be risky business, after all, what with nothing but weaponry and ammunition at hand.

So after the umbraged Williams started his killing spree, he was shot to shit by the remaining staff, stumbled into the parking lot and died there.

Why he was in the store in the first place – what were his intentions — nobody knows. Maybe he had a death wish. Suicide by gun shop clerk.

This is not a polemic nor a political rant. Me, I like guns. I own a couple. I love shooting. Not people, though. Not even animals. I’m more about skeet, targets and empty beer cans set at 200 feet to fuel my fantasies. It’s a rush. The power of those little machines is breathtaking. It’s like archery on steroids.

I’m not a big fan of weapons of war, though. They belong in war. Not suburbia. Not in schools or concerts or Capitol stormings. They’re not for skeet, targets or even hunting. Unless you count innocent citizens and children among the prey.

I taught my kids to shoot when they were barely out of adolescence. I had a friend with a farm in Mississippi where we could go make all the noise we wanted and not hit anyone by accident. I taught them safety, responsibility, aiming, firing and cleaning. Those days remain among my treasured parenting moments. Nothing as home spun Americana as bonding with your kids over gunpowder.

(That the “organic” farm where we shot was also a cover for an illegal moonshine operation is a whole ‘nuther story for another day.) But folks left us alone. We shot. We broke a lot of beer bottles. And, if nothing else, I taught my kids that pistols are not, as the great Steve Earle sang on his record Copperhead Road, “the Devil’s right hand.” (Johnny Cash did a killer version of the song on his last album; see below.)

And so, all that mess happened on Saturday. National headlines. Louisiana crazy in the news again. It can be a reckless and often stupid world. And somehow, our state – and our city in particular (yes, I know, it was technically Metairie) – so often seems to fall into the center of the national story line.


Go figure. It’s all fun and (war) games until somebody gets hurt. Or killed.