Friendly Fire

Everyone knows lots of Philadelphians are armed. But not all of them are criminals.

By Steven Wells
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Aug. 1, 2007

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And just once it got creepy. At a gun show at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory at 27th and Southampton in the Northeast, customers are politely asked to leave their cameras in their cars while owners of concealed weapons pop out magazines and take their empty weapons into the show.

Inside, men in T-shirts proudly emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag meander past stalls selling hand grenades, homophobic bumper stickers, books about cannibalism (Contingency Cannabalism: Superhardcore Survivalism's Dirty Little Secret), gunpowder and Cold War weaponry still sticky with packing grease.

There are badges, books, armbands and beer steins covered in swastikas. A middle-aged black man asks questions about a pistol he's thinking of buying, seemingly oblivious that the table he's leaning over is awash in symbols of racial hatred and white supremacy.

This is how much of the rest of the world sees the U.S., how we're portrayed in countless news specials and documentaries--as a gun-toting, military-fetishizing right-wing freak show; a modern industrialized democracy bizarrely in thrall to culturally retarded and heavily armed barbarians; a nation where schoolchildren go on shooting sprees, and inner-city kids kill other inner-city kids by the hundreds, and nothing changes because no one wants to upset a progress-blocking coalition of gun companies, craven politicians and ferociously right-wing gun nuts.

Philadelphia's gun owners belie that stereotype.


Thirty-six-year-old Donald "Donno" Layton graces the cover of Armed America--bearded, booted and suited, and looking for all the world like an Old Testament patriarch anachronistically armed with 21st-century weaponry.

His son Uzi, wearing Superman jim-jams, stands in the foreground waving.

"I didn't pick the name," says Layton. "My wife Judi did after watching The Royal Tenenbaums. We looked it up, and it means 'my strength and power.' Then a few days after we'd decided on the name, Uzi Gal, the inventor of the Uzi submachinegun, died--right here in Philly! Crazy coincidence, eh?"

Layton's a minister in the Worldwide Church of Christianship, a husband and father, a tattoo artist, a part-time child-minder and a tribute-band singer who always performs in a wig and a dress.

"Yeah, it confuses people," he says. "I'm all about that."

Layton once tattooed an oversized representation of his penis and testicles on a female customer, who he says, "loves the cock and is not afraid to let people know."

On the front porch of his picturesque five-story West Philly house sits a large sack of weed-killer relabeled "Viagra."

Layton suspects it's the work of a neighbor, but he hasn't bothered to remove it. Inside his lovingly maintained house, an entire wall is covered in scrawled punk graffiti.

The chances of Layton ever being chosen as an official NRA spokesperson are slim.

"I like to fuck with the squares," he says.

That's one of the reasons he chose the legendary AK-47, the punk-rockiest assault rifle ever made.

"It's a gun people look at and recoil in horror. As a kid who grew up sporting a mohawk, running around and scaring suburban squares, I like that people see it and instantly form an opinion about me. If they don't want to be near me, that's great. It separates the wheat from the chaff."

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1. gunholsters said... on Jan 20, 2009 at 07:12PM

“Interesting group of people. One thing about gun ownership, both legal and illegal, is that it crosses all typical boundaries like race, religion, economic status, etc. Every visit to my local gun show features an interesting cross section of society. I saw a priest (collar and all) buying a handgun at the last show. It takes all kinds to make the world turn.”

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