People decide to own guns for a variety of reasons. Some buy them for protection or hunting, or for history. The IPR series "Our Guns" has been profiling local gun owners. Today, the world of antique gun collecting. IPR's Alex Keefe visited one of the country's biggest antique arms auction houses, in northwest Illinois:
By his own admission, when 59-year-old Pat Hogan goes to work, he feels like a kid in a candy store.
"Look at the thing! It absolutely brand-spankin' new!"
Except it's not candy, it's guns. Lots of them. : Wow!
"Well, this is around 50,000 square feet of our production floor. In this building there's probably, I'd venture to guess 15,000 to 18,000 guns easily right now."
Hogan owns the Rock Island Auction Company in the Quad Cities, about three hours west of Chicago. And the production floor has ten-foot shelves stacked with military rifles. Long tables, covered with pistols, muskets, even machine guns, which Hogan is allowed to sell after rigorous background checks.
"No one's robbin' a 7-11 with that because how much it cost.(keefe) What do those cost? "That's gotta be in the 30-thousand range.
There are guns so big two people would need to carry them, and other guns small enough to hold in the palm of your hand. There are rusted out guns, carried through war zones, and guns Hogan calls "Beanie babies," made just for collecting, not for shooting. And he acknowledges not everybody understands this hobby.
"It's really unusual for somebody to have 200 guns. I kinda laugh at that because they wouldn't think it's unusual for somebody to have 200 stamps, or 500 Raggedy Ann dolls. This is what it's all about. This is collecting."
Hogan says he doesn't use his guns for hunting, and he doesn't even shoot that much. For him and a lot of his clients, gun collecting is about owning a piece of history. And it's also about this almost obsessive appreciation for craftsmanship.
"These are all Civil War guns, and they're just killer! And you see the raised grain in that shows you that wood is old, okay?"
When I drove out to meet Hogan, I was expecting an hour-long interview, two hours, tops. But we strolled through his warehouse for more than six hours.
And it seems like every he started to explain his passion for collecting guns, he'd get distracted by another gun, pluck it off the shelf, and swoon.
"Something like this, that's a Hauda pistol. This was actually used in hunting. Tigers."
Incoming guns are unloaded, checked for safety, and inventoried for auction. Some will go for a few hundred bucks, others, for a few hundred thousand. Hogan unlocks a door off the main floor and takes me into a room he calls "the vault."
"See only certain people have access to this. (door opens). Again, the building's all electronically controlled."
It's a climate controlled, concrete space where Hogan is legally required to stow the fully-automatic machine guns, as well as some of the most prized items in his collection. He shows me an ornately engraved pistol, which he describes as a "masterpiece."
Do people shoot these, or do they -"Oh, you'd be crazy to shoot these. But I mean, that is a relief-carved Indian, okay, in gold, creeping through the forest up on a deer drinking water from a fountain that's in silver."
Hogan talks about these guns as pieces of art, as historical artifacts. Around lunchtime, he's showing me an infrared scope that fits on an M1 carbine military rifle, when I get a news alert on my phone that brings up another side of guns. (keefe: There's another shooting. Phoenix, somebody said, in an office park.) It was one gunman in an office park - three victims, two injured, one dead.
(keefe: A few minutes ago I got this news alert on my phone that talks about another reported shooting in Phoenix, I think it was. When you hear stuff like this, what's your first thought? What do you think when I tell you, Oh, we just got this thing?)
"I hope, I hope they shot the bastard right between the eyes that did the shooting. I hope they, they - they killed him."
Hogan believes shootings like this aren't about guns, they're about mental illness, or a culture that glorifies violence. But he sees them as the reason to give more guns to law-abiding people who aren't afraid to use them.
"The message gets out there to people who are gonna commit crimes with guns that, you know what? I pull this gun out, maybe somebody's gonna shoot me. Okay, and um, I know that's the old Wild West kinda mentality. But, you know, to some extent, it worked."
For Hogan, thatís one more lesson from history.
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