Excerpt taken from an article in the ‘Telegraph Sunday Magazine’ London, November 1981
The boss of Gunsite Ranch, Colonel Jeff Cooper, trains ordinary Americans to shoot to kill. He believes private citizens must defend themselves – preferably with a Colt .45.
“Are guns to shoot people? Of course!…The fact is there are people who must be shot in order to stop their dreadful acts. Thank God there is an effective way to stop them”. So says a tract issued by the Doctrinal Bible Church of Richardson, Texas.
“The U.S. government has neither the wit nor the muscle to carry out operations any more. The private citizen has got to defend himself”. It was Jeff Cooper speaking – a rigid backed, barrel-chested, crew cut ex-Marines colonel. He is king of Gunsite Ranch, headquarters of the American Pistol Institute (now known as Gunsite Academy in 2016) in northern Arizona, where ragged volleys crack out over the juniper-clad hills. Strategically placed on 200 acres of high desert, it is fast becoming the gun capital of the nation.
The sinister-looking symbol of a black raven with outstretched wings looms over the main gate of Gunsite Ranch and on signs throughout the camp. Asked why he picked a bird which was an emblem of white mercenaries who fought in Africa, Col. Cooper affected astonishment and claimed that it had also been used by the Viking ancestors of his wife’s family.
The menacing emblem also appeared on the buckle of the Colonel’s belt, which strapped a Colt .45 to his middle. With it he wore a military-style black shirt, jeans and a Rhodesian bush hat with rattlesnake trim.
As you drive through tiny Paulden, the nearest village on the way to gunsite Ranch, the postmistress will telephone a warning of your approach to the Colonel. About 2,000 loyal Americans will be finding their way there before the end of the year.
But first they must buy their guns. With demand increasing day by day – though the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms claims it keeps no figures – the free market stands ready to meet it. People who in the past have not owned a gun are finding little trouble purchasing one in most states. Most popular buy is the so-called Saturday Night Special, which fits handily in a woman’s handbag with her lipstick, mirror and comb.
Buying a gun in a city like Dallas is not difficult. There are 93 gun shops and all you have to do is select your weapon from a wall lined with pistols. The Saturday Night Special, a snub-nosed .22 calibre pistol costing about 20 (British pounds) comes at the low end of the price scale.
“this is a famous little gun” the helpful salesman may say. “It’s the same kind of gun that was used to shoot President Reagan”.
To complete the transaction you need only produce a Texas driving license to “prove” residence and fill in a short form warning of penalties if you falsify answers about your criminal record, use of narcotics or mental health. Then you pay your money and pocket your gun. The form does not even go to a computer bank to be checked. It is simply kept by the dealer in his dusty files.
Demand for guns brings a demand for gun schools. Public shooting ranges offer weekend courses consisting of lectures and range instruction from about 55 (British pounds). to enrol you require a letter of moral character from your employer, your minister or a law enforcement officer and a $12 deposit. An alternative is life membership of the National rifle Association, which costs $40. It claims over a million members and leads the powerful gun lobby in the United States.
Col. Cooper is a life member of the NFA. At 61 he has been around guns a very long time. The records in Los Angeles, where he was born, show him to be John Dean cooper. Jeff is his nom de guerre. At school he picked the OTC over the football team because the army offered free .22 ammunition to members of the rifle team. commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps three moth before America entered the Second World War, he srved mainly in the Pacific. The Korean War saw him in the clandestine services, from which he resigned with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He said he was denied service in Vietnam “probably because I had proven difficult to control”.
This article will be continued next week December 14…