Buying into the gun culture

A semiautomatic 22-caliber pistol is about the size of a cell phone and cost 39.99 from Jayhawk Pawn and Jewelry, 1804 W. Sixth St. Lawrence Journal-World reporter Chad Lawhorn, who purchased the gun on Thursday, will be detailing the process of obtaining a concealed carry permit.

It is just a simple click, but it gets my mind racing.

That’s the sound that a Colt .380 pocket pistol makes when it is being cocked. I know that’s the sound it makes, but it is still an attention-getter when you hear it in person.

It isn’t the only thing that gets my attention this late June morning. More so is the guy behind the pawn shop counter explaining to me how I could feel comfortable sticking this cocked pistol down the front of my pants.

Welcome to the world of concealed carry.

Yes, I’m in the gun-buying market. Now that Kansas is on the growing list of states allowing a person to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, it makes sense to thoroughly explain the process of getting a concealed carry permit.

So, here I am. The best way to explain is first to do. Periodically this summer, I’ll be writing these first-person accounts as I receive gun training, fill out the necessary paperwork and, ultimately, carry a concealed weapon around for a few days.


I haven’t told this guy on the other side of the pawn shop counter that I’m a reporter. I just want to hear how he would talk to me, the real me. Believe it or not, people sometimes get a little reserved around reporters.

I’m in an area pawn shop (there are only two in Lawrence, but if you drive to Topeka or Kansas City there are plenty) because I figure that’s the place to find an affordable gun. Affordability is in the eye of the beholder. The seller prices this .380-caliber weapon at $575.

“Chances are, you’ll never need to pull it in your life,” he says. “But if you do, you need it to be a reliable weapon.”

That’s what this is, he says. He tells me it is a very sought-after weapon for concealed carry. The reason: It is small.

He drops it into the front pocket of his baggy shorts to show me that no one would ever know. Some guys carry it that way, but without a pocket holster it kind of bounces around in there. Plus, you don’t want to sit down in a chair, lean back and have your pistol fall on the floor. That’s not the best of icebreakers.

He says for people who regularly wear a jacket or blazer, concealing a weapon is a piece of cake. A small holster that clips on the side of your belt or fits in the small of your back will do the trick.

But I’m just wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans today. What about that? The man says a lot of guys do wear them down the front of their pants inside a special holster called a crotch holster. He laughs a little as he says this. I laugh more nervously.

He tells me this is a good gun for it, though. He tells me it is safe with this gun to “carry one in the chamber.” Just cock it and put it on safety. That way, it just requires a quick flick of the safety and a pull of the trigger. A gun for a man with no time to waste.

That’s about it on that gun. As an afterthought, he tells me I would want to load this one with hollow-point ammunition – a type of ammunition designed to expand once it hits a target rather than travel straight through it. It reduces the risk of hitting something you didn’t intend to.

It drives home the point of what this is all about.


I go to a few more places. I ask what I really should be looking for in a gun for concealed carry. One guy tells me definitely a semiautomatic – a type of gun that once cocked allows you to fire all the shots in your magazine simply by repeatedly pulling the trigger.

“Bottom line, if you ever get in a situation, the idea is to fire as many shots as you can,” the salesman says.

Others tell me that it is just whatever I’m comfortable with. Size seems to be the biggest factor in determining whether a gun is a good fit for concealed carry.

Ultimately, I decide to buy local. After all, I’ve heard City Hall needs sales tax dollars. There are not a lot of places to buy a handgun in Lawrence. Three that I found were Jayhawk Pawn and Jewelry, 1804 W. Sixth St.; Lawrence Pawn and Jewelry, 944 E. 23rd St.; and Hacks Outfitters, 941 E. 23rd St.

I end up with a .22-caliber semiautomatic. It is not a Dirty Harry gun by any means. It is about the size of my cell phone, and about twice as heavy. What I can say about this gun is that the price is right. It’s a new gun – not used – and cost me $139.99.

The seller is upfront with me. He says it is a good gun, but basically a hobby gun for people wanting to find out whether the idea of owning a gun is right for them. Someone else describes it as “kind of hit or miss.” That’s a phrase I can’t get out of my head.

I buy it at Jayhawk Pawn and Jewelry. It is a professional process but a quick one. Before I could even look at a gun, I had to show my driver’s license. If you’re not a Kansas resident, you can’t legally buy a gun here.

After I hand over my cash, I get a two-page sheet to fill out for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It asks for my name, address, Social Security number, the make and model of the gun, and its serial number. The form includes a handful of questions, including whether I have been convicted of a felony, had a restraining order related to domestic violence or have renounced my U.S. citizenship.

And the question that apparently doubles as an audition for America’s Stupidest Criminals: Am I a fugitive of the law?

Apparently, I answer everything correctly. The clerk calls my information into the FBI, and gets the go-ahead to sell me the gun. I entered the store at 1:30 p.m. and have a gun by 1:50 p.m.

I check the form that I filled out to make certain that the serial number on it is the same one on the gun. That number will be attached to my name, so I want to make sure it is right.

I walk out the door with a lot of questions. Among them is the one I came in with: Where am I going to conceal this thing? In my boot? In my pocket? On my back?

I have time to figure this out. I can’t conceal it anywhere until I go through a state-mandated class and fill out the necessary paperwork for a permit.

But my outing has given me one answer. I already can tell you the one place I definitely won’t be concealing it.