Back in the early 1980s, I was invited to join a group of men who went out to dinner every Thursday evening. They were all customers at a small-town gunshop who had gotten friendly with the owner. An extremely unlike group of people, they included myself, two gunsmiths, a retired New York State trooper who was now a locksmith, a high-school English teacher who had a degree in comparative literature from Harvard, a Wall Street plutocrat, and a machinist.

We would go to a local restaurant, ogle the waitresses, argue, insult each other, and talk about guns and hunting and the military. The intellectual progress of mankind did not advance one iota, but we enjoyed ourselves and each other.

Of course it did not last. One of the gunsmiths moved away; the Wall street plutocrat retired and moved as well; the machinist and the English teacher died, and finally the gunshop itself closed. We were all very lucky to have had what we did, and we knew it even at the time. And I can’t think of anything save an interest in guns that can bring together so disparate a group of people, again and again, in place after place.