Yeah, I am an old guy, but I understand the contemporary use of the term, “Represent!” For those of you who “ain’t aboard the trolley,” the urban dictionary classifies “Represent” as a verb meaning, “Go and be a good example to the others of your group…” In the past couple of weeks, I have felt the need to holler to everyone in our collecting world, “Yo! Ya gotta represent!”
Don’t throw us under the bus
I realize people are going to do stupid things. That’s their right. But when they do, I wish they wouldn’t hide behind collectors to justify their stupidity. That makes it hard for all of us who pursue our hobby in a lawful, peaceful manner.
A couple of weeks ago, a man in Willmar, Minnesota, pleaded guilty to possessing a fully auto Uzi, an unregistered silencer, and a pipe bomb. The plea deal was reached after Federal investigators found a cache of weapons in his pole barn that included nine machine guns, two short-barreled shotguns, three suppressors, two PVC pipe bombs with fuses intact, two five-gallon pails containing explosive materials, various detonators and other ignition devices.
In the plea deal, Chad Lee Monson faces 30 years. Regardless, what really chaps my hide is that his lawyer, Daniel Mohs, said that his client is a “gun collector” who paid to have his semi-automatic rifles converted to fully automatic and was unaware that two of the firearms were missing serial numbers. He went on to make excuses for the pipe bombs and bomb-making materials, claiming Monson used those explosives as part of his excavating business.
A “collector” who isn’t aware that making machine guns with serial numbers eliminated isn't legal? Yeah, right. Oh, and he uses pipe bombs for his excavation business. Seriously? You expect people to buy that line of tripe? Yo, you dissin' me, fool!
Recently, I attended the meeting of our local military vehicle club. The president had explained very carefully to everyone, “Remember. You represent the hobby every time you drive your vehicle.” And he is absolutely correct. Even though you might lose your license or have a weapon confiscated if you do something stupid with your vehicle, it doesn’t end there. It affects us all.
Currently, there is a growing cry to “ban WWII DUKWs” as a result of the catastrophe in Branson, Missouri, in which 17 people drowned when a Duck tour boat sank. Regardless that the vehicle was misidentified as a WWII DUKW (it was a modern adaptation of a vintage vehicle that included altering the length and replacing the engine and exhaust), it has spawned a nationwide call to ban WWII amphibious vehicles from being allowed to operate as designed.
They may not have understood it, but the people who owned the Branson duck boat tour company represented an aspect of our hobby. Whether through greed, stupidity, or a combination of the two, they made a serious miscalculation that ended 17 peoples’ lives…and may impact the future of the hobby.
As the president of my local club explained, “We represent more than just our vehicle…we represent everyone in our club and our hobby.” Nothing could be truer.
I remind myself every time I go shooting, set up my table of items to sell at a show, or even give a talk to a civic organization on military history: Not only am I representing myself and my interests, but I am representing you.
If I accidentally kill the neighbor’s dog with my M1, display my collection of Nazi relics outside the synagogue, or march in the Gay Pride parade waving my Confederate flag, the critics are going to lump all of you into those actions when they write, “The guy was an active collector of militaria with a large stash of weapons and ammo…”*
The next time you are driving your Jeep on two wheels, displaying your Holocaust relics, or flying your Union Jack upside down, someone will probably make the connection, “Oh…he is like that 'collector' in Minnesota.” Don't give them a reason, to reinforce that negative image.
We all "represent." Let’s be smart about it.
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine
*While I DO have a large stash of ammo and a whole lot of military weapons, my neighbors don’t have dogs worth shooting, nor do I collect Nazi relics or own a Confederate flag.