It's guns and ammo for the holiday season if you read the news following Black Friday, the time annually reserved for the great annual shopping spasm in the US. "Panic at Gunfire in Toy Store," blared the November 29th frontpage headline in the Los Angeles Times, reporting a uniquely American muzzle flash.
"Instead of the usual frantic chaos on Black Friday... mayhem erupted in the electronics department... leaving two men dead in a gunfight and crowds of shoppers ducking for cover," read the Times. There was a rude exchange between two couples, one young man showed the other his gun and vice versa. Escalation took over, then mutual assured destruction, something that often comes naturally in these types of exchange in southern California. Customers hid between the aisles.
Left to read from between the newspaper's lines - it was probably a gang thing, young men doing each other because that's the way it is here, underlining one tenet of southern California living: It's unwise to fuss with strangers wearing loose clothing. Even in a toy store the day after Thanksgiving.
However, that's only one side of the firearms on shopping days coin. The other side is rural, connected to the first only by fear. (Full disclosure: This writer does not own a gun but grew up in a town where all the neighbors had collections. Hunting and pigeon shooting were religion.)
Guns and ammo sales are up since the election of Barack Obama. And they've stayed bullish, fueled by everything from conspiracy talk at gun shows to a sales tax-free gun shopping weekend in South Carolina.
Taking a bird's eye view of it, as shaken out from a selection of headlines from counties across the nation, the drivers of the surge seem remarkably consistent.
Of South Carolina's "Second Amendment Weekend," the Columbia State newspaper reported one sporting goods store owner who "called in extra staff and started giving away hot dogs and sodas because people were waiting so long in line." Some of the demand was attributed to the different "regime" coming to power, some to the seven percent price discounts.
A common thread was it's a response to the Democrats, or rather, fear of them. Gun sales traditionally spike a bit when they come to Washington - it also happened when Bill Clinton ascended to power. Although Barack Obama has said he wants common sense regulation and respect of the second amendment, this really makes no difference.
The Snohomish Times in Washington distilled the essence of it in a few paragraphs for a piece entitled "A Gun Under the Tree, Becoming a Trend."
"One of the hottest retail gifts for this year may be a new gun," it wrote recently. "Snohomish, Washington, like many small towns in America felt that many of their voices went unheard on November 4th and now they are worried about eroding constitutional rights.
"The national buying trend on guns is showing a rush on military style weapons and handguns." And assault rifles are thought to be in danger.
The Fresno Bee, in California, showed a more diverse mix of beliefs. Ammunition was going to be taxed, as a way to make gunning a hobby only for the wealthy. One gun dealer who was interviewed believed the new administration will try to outlaw gun sales within five miles of parks and schools. This would, it was alleged, ban almost all gun sales in the US.
But there was still another fear, a pop-eyed and spittle-flecked one, present in many of the stories. It takes its cues from weird retrograde and red state America, from parts where ill rumors abound and the thinking is that in bad times the country may suddenly disintegrate with others inevitably coming to take stuff from the locals.
"If our Capitol should fall to the enemy within, I expect you to do your duty," wrote Kurt Saxon on the backleaf of "The Poor Man's James Bond" - a gazette-like collection of bits on guns, ammo and how to make boobytraps, published in the mid-80s. And the enemy was to be met with speed, vigor and a good home arsenal.