Got Mace?

December 14, 2011 — Leave a comment

Every time I feel myself settling into a steady rhythm in this endlessly complex country, I am jolted back to the more discomforting aspects of life in America.

Driving to Catalina’s Coffee on Washington, my reward for standing in line at the soon-to-be-bankrupt post office as two hard-working women attempted to placate an increasingly irate stream of customers wholly lacking in seasonal goodwill, I saw the sign. “Got Mace?”

Houston it must be said is home to hoardings. They line the freeways, with slightly less impunity than in the past, but they are still prolific. The signs offer everything from titty bars to chocolate bars, from abstinence to alcohol, and everything in between. But I was, just for a moment, confused. Mace? Why would a sign next to a bail bonds establishment offer spice?

And then I realised. They didn’t mean the cooking kind. The same hoarding has, in the past, congratulated police cadets on their graduation; offered body armour, batons and bullets; as well as encouragement to the Forces at home and abroad.

I remembered the sign belonged to the police supply store tucked behind the bail bonds. I do understand that policemen need to have a one-stop shop, but what I hadn’t realised is that this retail establishment is open to me, Mrs. Jane Public.

The right to bear arms is ingrained in the American DNA. It’s in the Constitution and woe betides any politician of any colour who tries to mess with it. The National Rifle Association has strong support and shoots it’s bullets into any attempt to restrict gun laws, though Texan universities were allowed to opt out of allowing handguns on campuses.

So yes, guns and weaponary in general are big business in the US. The George R. Brown convention centre in Downtown Houston might host the largest quilt festival in the country, but so to does it welcome a number of guns shows. That is when pick-ups proliferate and Bubba and Junior can be seen bonding over the rifles and semi-automatics on display.

But it’s not just men who take pride in their ability to fire arms. An incident reported in the Houston Chronicle recently made much of the fact that an elderly woman foiled an attempt by a couple posing as utility workers whilst trying to gain access to her home. She shot them. Part of me admires her gumption but it didn’t actually do her much good, as she keeled over and died from a heart attack immediately afterwards. My mother would’ve shot the scammers down with words, and then poured herself a good stiff whisky. But then she lived in rural England and not suburban Houston.

I have friends who walk their dogs with an aerosol of pepper spray tucked into any handy pocket, and it’s not to use on warring canines. I also know numerous gun owners who find my sensibilities quite baffling and cannot understand my resoluteness not to own a firearm; though I must admit to being charmed by a small and rather pretty pearl handled pistol that tucked neatly into an sparkly clutch bag that I was shown one evening at an event – but would I ever fire it? No. So why own it?

Perhaps spice is a better bet especially at this time of year. Maybe I do need to get mace!

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