Carolyn Kellim’s home sits in a quiet Roseburg neighborhood and there is a wooden nativity scene outside her door that stands testimony to her Christian faith. The 84-year-old silver-haired native of Jefferson (14 miles or so south of Salem) greeted me at the door with an offer of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Her home was bright and sunny and there were fresh flowers in the kitchen. As soon as we finished our sandwiches, we adjourned to a back room filled from floor to ceiling with guns, rifles and enough ammunition to hold off a platoon.
Carolyn is a gun dealer and business has never been better.
“The current administration has been very good for the gun business,” she told me, referring to the folks in Washington D.C.
If you don’t believe Carolyn, go try to find some ammunition in town. Most stores can’t keep it on the shelves and the price is climbing.
Some blame the rush for guns and ammo on misguided fear, dismissing it as mass hysteria.
Others argue that it’s not about fear; it’s about a distrust of government that of late appears well deserved. News that the Internal Revenue Service may have been targeting groups for special attention simply because they hold conservative views only adds fuel to that position.
It’s a pretty scary world when the most powerful government agency in the so-called “Free World” (and any agency that can drain your bank account without your permission is powerful) can target you for an audit because it doesn’t like what you have to say.
I don’t think that’s what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment.
And Carolyn’s customers wonder the same thing about the Second Amendment, which is why they parade to her door to stock up on guns and ammunition.
Carolyn got into the gun business almost by accident. She and her husband, Ken, had already retired — Ken from the Navy and Carolyn from the federal government, where she worked as a financial analyst — when they opened a thrift store called KC’s in 1995.
“We opened on May 11 at 1721 S.E. Stephens,” Carolyn told me. “It was a high-class junk shop.”
Over time, KC’s (for Ken and Carolyn) developed a pretty good gun clientele. “I liked the gun part of the business,” Carolyn recalled. “I’d never sold guns before, but when I was in second grade I had a .22, and I’d come home from school and go pheasant hunting. At least I’d pretend to. I never actually got one.”
Carolyn learned about guns from her customers. “The old fellows would stand at the counter and tell stories, and I’d just listen,” she said. “They were training me, but didn’t know it.”
Ken and Carolyn closed the thrift store in 2003. Ken took a job as a technician with Mercy Medical Center, and Carolyn pretty much moved the gun business to a back room in her house.
“What’s great is that I could never get a job that pays anything and I can do this out of my own house,” she said.
Money from Carolyn’s gun sales buys food for local senior citizens who are having a tough time making ends meet. The government keeps telling them that their cost of living isn’t growing, so they must make a Social Security check stretch as far as they can while gas and utility bills and food costs continue to soar.
“When I first retired, I was bored, and I’d read where the Meals on Wheels program needed help,” Carolyn remembered.
Born at the start of the Great Depression in 1929, Carolyn knows the value of food. “It’s a shame our country lets people suffer like that,” she said. “The food prices keep going up. I shop every week for the food donations. That’s where most all my money goes.”
Carolyn said many of her customers are women. “Buying a gun can be intimidating,” she said. “I like to make sure it’s a gun they can handle. I tell them to get one small enough they don’t have to take out of the purse when they need it. Just shoot through the purse.”
Her stance on gun control is not surprising. “Guns are inoperative,” she explained. “They just sit there until someone picks one up and uses it. I don’t see any need for more laws. Cars kill more people than guns, so why don’t they ban them?”
She also wonders why Homeland Security is buying so much ammunition. “We saw the same thing during Hitler’s regime, and I’m old enough to remember it,” she said.
Carolyn doesn’t see herself quitting any time soon. “I’ll do this until I can’t do it anymore,” she said. “My mom was 102 when she died, so I think I have a ways to go.”
• Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or email@example.com.