Osama's Gun

How to not build bin Ladens AK-47 without even trying

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It was time to build—or at least it should have been—but that Friday, when I looked for Jim's number, I couldn't find it in any of my stacks of bills, campaign literature, doorhangers, car magazines or take-out menus. I called one of my car buddies, and he said to call a guy named Fred whom he knew well enough that I could use his name to say, "Please, can I use you and your shop?"So I left a message for Fred. And waited. And left him another message. And waited. I needed help. I can work on houses; I can talk like I know how to work on cars—but I had none of the experience hitting a tiny rivet with a five-pound sledge hammer I would need to rivet together my own AK-47 rifle. Without Fred, I'd be stuck. There was no way I could build this thing. I didn't even know exactly how it went together, and I had none of the equipment I'd need to buck rivets. And I couldn't take it to a real, licensed gunsmith; they won't even work on an AK-47 unless you bring it in with the paperwork, because they know the Department of Justice will audit them every year like clockwork. I left Fred message after message that weekend as I lay on the couch watching—I'm not making this up—a History Channel documentary on Charles Whitman, the University of Texas tower sniper. I even had my friend Ray, who knew Fred, call him up, but I didn't hear from Ray until that Monday.

Ray said he'd managed to get Fred's wife on the telephone for a minute. She said her husband had spent his weekend under the house with a friend: killing rats with an Airsoft gun. That—that—was why he hadn't called us back: too busy being half of a two-man vector control agency. I'd been out-maneuvered by vermin. And I suddenly understood why, according to the NRA guy, the most common gun used in a crime is a handgun. It's not that crooks love handguns, even if they do—only that it's too fucking hard to get your hands on a genuine assault weapon in California. You can't buy one, you can't build one, and you can't own one either.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. Photo by Russ Roca
Seemed like a good idea at the time. Photo by Russ Roca

And if you're me, you can't even not do it legally.

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I hear, again through my friends, that is like eBay for guns—which would maybe give me something to do with certain pieces of certain things. I start composing the ad in my head:

"For sale: one AK-47 Mark 99 lower receiver with paperwork. Made by ICM Arms of Ohio to Romanian specifications. 7.62 caliber. Comes with single-shot long gun parts kit, rivets kit and gun lock. Never used. $400 or best offer."

*All names have been changed.

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