Ollie North Visits National Firearm's Museum
By Stephen Lowman
The newly renovated gift shop at the NRA's National Firearm's Museum in Fairfax, Va., probably has the largest collection of firearm literature on the East Coast. While the store features all sorts of merchandise emblazoned with the logo of the National Rifle Association -- from sweatshirts to shot glasses to salt and pepper shakers -- manager Benjamin Van Scoyoc said that books account for 45 percent of the store's business. Among the 600 or so titles are "Sniper Variations of the German K98k Rifle," "Battle Weapons of the American Revolution" and "The World of Beretta: An International Legend."
On Thursday afternoon, however, the store's patrons had only one book in their sights: "American Heroes: In the Fight Against Radical Islam" by Lt. Col. Oliver North. The author himself was on hand to push his book, originally published in May 2008 and reissued in May 2009, with updates on the events in Afghanistan. He also gave a talk to the Virginia Gun Collectors Association, which co-sponsored the event. Book buyers got a discount on the title, snapping it up for $20 instead of the $24.99 list price, then lined up for North to sign it.
The line snaked through the lobby of the NRA's headquarters, which houses the museum and gift shop, and out the door before the signing began at 4:30.
One of those waiting was Ed Anderson of Logan, Utah. Living in the DC area temporarily as a representive of the LDS church, the 73-year-old had visited the Firearms Museum earlier in the month and decided to come back when he heard about the book signing.
"It's the best museum in Washington, and we have been to all the Smithsonians," he said. "Even my wife liked it and normally she is into other types of museums."
The Firearms Museum has over 5,000 guns, half of which are on display at any one time. The collection traces the evolution of firearms in the United States. The highlight is the Mayflower Gun, which was brought over on the pilgrim's first landing, proving that guns have been a part of American culture since colonists stepped off the boat.
The signing was about as nonpolitical a gathering as could be held at the NRA headquarters. Attendees talked about their antique gun collections, their military service, or just their excitement at meeting Oliver North. Museum staff stressed the NRA's gun safety classes and shooting tournaments. Brownies, cookies and punch were served.
Back at the gift shop, Van Scoyoc pointed out other popular items.
"Do you know how hard it is to find to guns anymore?" he said. One wall of the store had dozens of non-firing replicas. "They come to the museum and say, 'You sell toy guns!' They are pretty excited."
But the excitement on Thursday was all focused on an author, not a toy arsenal. The museum said by the time North finished signing at 6:45 p.m. some 400 books bore his autograph.
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