George Worthy
George Worthy

I might have scared off a few readers with that title, but I think it is important for you to believe and understand what I am going to write. When I got out of the Army in 1974, I got a job as a Deputy Sheriff for the County of Monterey. I worked there for nine years before I left.

I was living in San Jose and commuting every day. I was living in San Jose because I was attending San Jose State University. The commute was a real downer. I usually worked the midnight shift and sleep became a luxury. Eventually I found a home in Salinas that I could afford and moved back. Of course, I had to quit school and stop eating out at restaurants.

I became a very good friend of the owner of The Keyhole. The Keyhole was a gun store and locksmith, his name was Tom Tavernetti. Tom was a former Aircraft Carrier Pilot in the U.S. Navy, so we could have discussions to see who the biggest liar was. He was one of the finest men that I had ever met. Tom’s wife had passed some time before we met and we would occasionally discuss our appreciation of the female species. All discussions were very respectable.

One day he asked if I would be interested in buying his gun store. It was an opportune time for him to do that because I was pretty tired of working nights and trying to sleep during the day. The Keyhole had opened in 1936 and had a good customer base. I decided to become a businessman. There was only one problem, although it didn’t come to my attention until I had been putting all my money into the store and inventory. I didn’t know anything about business, especially retail business.

About this time I had a great opportunity. Or at least it seemed that way for me. I had taken a class in Arizona at a firearms school called Gun Site. I did well at the school and learned a lot about handguns and instruction. Retired Col. Jeff Cooper was the owner of the school and taught classes in handgun marksmanship and rifle and shotgun use in certain situations. I took all the classes and was graded as an “Expert” in all weapons.

After I had been to all the classes, I decided to hold classes for the customers of my store that had bought a weapon from me. I rented the firing range from the Monterey County Peace Officers Association and gave private lessons on the use of a firearm in the home. Most of those classes were taken by women who wanted to understand the rules should they ever need to protect themselves.

It was about this time that a politician over in Sacramento decided that we can’t be trusted with a firearm. Proposition 15 was submitted to a vote by the folks residing in California. Proposition 15 would have denied anyone in California the ownership of a hand gun. They were to turn in the guns they already had purchased. The results were a mixed bag. Obviously, I did not want the proposition to pass. None of my customers had a positive thing to say about the Prop.

The National Rifle Association called me and asked if I would be interested in being a spokesman against it. I said yes and began approaching civic-minded clubs and schools to explain just what would happen if this Prop passed. The clubs were supportive of my stance and were against it. I was asked by clubs over on the Peninsula to come and debate with local police to explain exactly what it meant to gun owners and those who were using guns to hunt for sport. I spoke to various organizations.

The other speaker was usually someone that was all for the crumbling of the Second Amendment. You know, the one that our forefathers had thought was so important they included the right to own a gun in our Constitution. Anyway, one of the guests I debated with most often was the Chief of Police in Salinas. He was usually unprepared and I could help the audience understand that he was an example of an anti-gunner. We did not become friends.

It was also at this time that I read in a gun magazine that a machinist back east had designed a device to allow an AR-15 to be turned into a machine gun. I sent off for the device and then decided I should be sure that I would be legally able to do so. I called the office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms up in San Jose to make my query. The phone practically exploded in my hands. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was NOT legal. I wasn’t particularly upset as I had plenty to keep me busy trying to make a living. I tossed the device over to my work bench where I used it as a paperweight. Life went on.

A few weeks went by to one night I was teaching the Hunter Safety Class in my store. I got a phone call telling me that I had been named in a Grand Jury indictment for making machine guns. I was flabbergasted as you might imagine. I then went on with my business until one morning about a month later when I was dressing my daughter who was staying with me for school. A knock on my door and two police officers and two ATF officers presented me with a paper that would allow them to search my home and store.

I’m going to stop here because I have run out of room. I will conclude this story next week, for I believe you should know what happened next with the government and how it affected my life and the lives of all who loved me.

God Bless.

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Gonzales columnist George Worthy may be reached at [email protected].


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