An NRA poster picturing a bald eagle is taped to the glass door of his office. He started as a lawyer, dabbling in everything from commercial land to trying to block the deportation of an illegal immigrant, before seguing into selling guns.
When his daughter graduated with a business degree from Texas A&M, Burdett figured she would move somewhere cosmopolitan like Dallas and work in a downtown high-rise. She instead went to work in the store, built her own AR-15 out of spare parts and used it to join what her father described as the “let's-go-pig-hunting-tonight circuit.” Those feral hog hunts often include high-powered rifles as well as night-vision goggles.
“The other thing is, shooting is fun. It really is,” Burdett said.
Many think so. Smith, the mechanical engineer, said that includes teenage girls. At national shooting competitions, Smith has run into a group of girls around 13 or 14 years old who call themselves “The Pink Ladies,” firing high-powered rifles at targets. He also recalls meeting Australians, whose country bans guns, who told him, “I love to shoot, so I'm going to the U.S.”
Others add safety to the list of reasons for allowing people easy access to guns.
“To me it's obvious — the more people that have guns, or at least in their homes, it's more of a criminal deterrent,” said Bill Moos, a local taxidermist in the small town of Bryan, near College Station. Moos, who owns more than 30 guns, can be spotted any given morning, prowling his roughly 40-acre (16-hectare) ranch with his dogs and a shotgun slung over his shoulder.
He tells a story of standing in the post office one day and hearing about a suspect driving around, wanted by the police. He thought of the woman behind the counter near him.
“My first thought was, `How are you going to protect yourself?' Does she have a gun, in case someone tries to rob her?” he said. “It's the first thing you think of: How are you going to defend yourself?”
On the television in the corner of his workshop, above a stuffed gray fox and a clutch of animal jawbones dangling on a ring like a set of keys, Obama is holding his first press conference since the Connecticut tragedy. He's promising to send Congress legislation tightening gun laws and urging them to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, like the one used by Lanza.
Moos turns down the volume.
“I guess it's something you get used to,” he said of guns. “That you grow up around, and you enjoy them, and you accept the fact that you can own. It's a privilege. It's a whole different way of life. I guess I don't need three pick-ups and a Corvette. But I have them.”