But things were different in the '80s—assault weapons weren't cool, and hardly anybody actually wanted to own one.
Ducking behind a concrete wall, I brushed the hot barrel of the M16 against my ear and yelped in pain. The barrel glowed orange against the black sky. They said you could melt the barrel if you fired on full-auto for too long. One of my buddies saw what I had done and shook his head in disdain. We were a rag-tag squad, in hand-me-down fatigues of every style, festooned with canteens and ammo pouches that smelled like mothballs and surplus store mold. Most of us had barely started shaving, and few of us were old enough to drive.
When I was a freshman in high school, I didn't know anyone who owned an assault weapon. No one I knew had parents who owned military-style rifles; or, if they did, the kids didn't talk about it. There were no pop songs that called out brand names of guns, and, if there was such a thing as a first-person shooter videogame back in 1982, they didn't have it at the bowling alley near my suburban townhouse—the only place my friends and I ever played games more sophisticated than Pong.
Guys I went to high school with got drunk, smoked pot, got in fistfights, crashed cars, got bored, stole things, got girls pregnant, and did all the other stupid stuff boys do today. But they didn't really play with guns, or even talk about guns much. Of course, living in the suburbs of D.C., which at the time was essentially still the Virginia countryside, some of my classmates were hunters; but that was considered too rural to be cool. Far more boys would have known that Edelbrock made carburetors than would have recognized Glock as the brand name of a pistol. If you wanted to mess around with military weapons, or simply geek out about them with like-minded peers, you needed to go out of your way.