Just off of River Road in North Eugene, sandwiched between a Dominoes Pizza and a drive through Dari Mart, sits a modest gun shop. It’s small frame, which resembles that of a converted old single story house, is flanked by two narrow cement alleyways and a parking lot in front. From overhead there is a steady stream of large golden leaves that gently fall to the ground as another Northwest autumn comes to a close.
Protecting the entrance to the gun shop is a barrage of steel bars, neon signs, thick glass and an assortment of advertisements. Hanging just to the right of the front door is a little whiteboard that reads “Election Special – Everything In Store 10% off.” To any person who might be familiar with the inside of a gun shop, the contents of the aisles and glass cases might have seemed normal. There is a medley of Remington hunting rifles, various types of assault rifles, plenty of shotguns, small handguns, pink handguns as well as very large dirty harry like pistols. Everywhere you’d look there were guns. And then there was Jay.
Standing behind the glass counter, Jay is wearing a neon green superman shirt, a slightly weathered olive green hat and a brown leather gun holster with a 1911 Springfield Armory .45 caliber pistol clipped into it. Built like he played a fierce linebacker back in high school, his blue eyes display a much softer side hidden underneath. Jay loves guns and knows a lot about them. In fact, when he was living in Southern California years ago, he actually created and patented a type of recoil device that you put into automatic rifles that helps them “not sound like toys” when you fire them.
Born in Salem, Jay graduated from South Salem High School in 1991. Then, shortly after that, he got married. He doesn’t like to speak much about his first wife but you can tell that things between them might not have ended well. He has a tattoo on his right arm that might best explain that specific period of his life, “It’s a rising phoenix. I went through a horrific divorce and it’s me rising out of the fire of hell.” He says with a smile. Other than that, he doesn’t like to talk about it very much. He’s moved on from that and is now happily married to his second wife Sarah.
Throughout his life Jay has moved around. After high school he moved to Utah in search of some sort of construction job and eventually found work as a utilities installer. Then, after a few years, he decided to head down to southern California where he began to develop his “invention”. However, there was a snag in regards to California law and what he was working on. Illegal in California and yet legal here in Oregon, he decided to make the move back up north to Eugene.
For many who meet him, and most of the other staff members of the gun shop for that matter, Jay might come off as abrasive and disparaging. Almost to the point of being impolite. In fact, the staff has – perhaps even gladly – built their own sort of Gun Owner reputation online via their reviews on Google and other sites. “According to them we’re dicks!” Jay says with a grin as he hands a customer a small box of .45 caliber bullets. It’s hard to tell whether or not he actually believes it. And, it might just be that he simply doesn’t care.
Indifferent might be, perhaps, the best word to describe Jay. But to say that he doesn’t care would be incredibly inaccurate. He’s patriotic and he’s opinionated and he’s concerned about the very same things that everyone should be concerned about. He just happens to believe in some things that others would disagree with. “If you’re a felon and you shoot someone with a gun. Put them to death. If you’re a child molester and a rapist. Put them to death. Sure, they deserve their day in court but if they are guilty put them to death.” A customer, dressed in a camo coat with a US Veterans shirt, stares at the rifles behind the counter as he shakes his head in agreement and points to a large black shotgun, “I bet that shotgun right there is one kicking son of a bitch.” Jay turns around and smiles, “it’s a beast.”
Towards the end of the day, as the shop grows quieter and quieter, Jay grabs his coat and throws it over his shoulders. Outside it begins to rain. “Look, I’m a conservative and I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins but I’m not going to tell my kids what and who to believe in. I want to be a good Dad and let them decide for themselves.”