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12 steps, tough love for plinking problems

Some people who live near me should face the facts, join A.A., and get into a 12-step program. I am speaking of Ammunition-users Anonymous. It caters to those folks addicted to the use and abuse of everything from slingshots to assault rifles.

On a typical spring Saturday evening near Clear Creek Ranch, the hills are alive with the sound of gunfire. Sounds like Rambo is taking on the Taliban over there.



I interviewed one prospective member who preferred to remain anonymous. (Code name: “Bud,” from the name stenciled on his hat). I took the liberty of re-conjugating his verbs and eliminating the many non sequiturs, grunts and rude noises for coherence’s sake.




“Bud” had the following to say: “Sure, I use ammo, a lot of ammo, but only for target practice. Old bottles, cans, that sort of thing. We call it ‘plinking.’ My daddy taught me, and before that, his daddy taught him. All true Americans plink. I admit that I plink a lot, but I don’t have a plinking problem.”

Since “Bud” was locked and loaded at the time (and may have had a firearm on him too), I did not discuss the onomatopoeic origins of the verb “to plink,” nor did I confront him with his flawed syllogisms. His obvious attempt at “denial” is a common behavior pattern among longtime heavy plinkers.

A.A. suggests a disarmingly simple strategy: cold turkey withdrawal. Studies show that “tapering off” just doesn’t work. Moving down from an Uzi to a Daisy air rifle is progress, experts concede, but they stress that the move from heavy plinking to light plinking is still plinking.

When A.A. members “fall off the wagon,” they generally abandon the wagon in a nearby vacant lot and let it rust for a while before filling it full of bullet holes.

But a true addict won’t stop there. If there are any unspent bullets left after they’ve recreated a battle scene from “Saving Private Ryan,” they immediately fix their sights on the livestock.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across tiny black cows lying bullet-riddled by the side of the road. The poor little guys – most of them no more than 12 inches long from nose to tail – should know better than to stand in profile against the yellow background of those “Cattle X-ing” signs.

Slow-moving fence posts, mailboxes, and even abandoned buildings (especially the windows) haven’t got a chance when a serious plinker is on a shooting spree.

This senseless wanton slaughter of inanimate objects would stop if A.A. members would live up to the promise they made during their first meeting: “Always eat what you shoot.”

Of course, no one can be helped unless he wants to be helped. First and foremost, the problem plinker must acknowledge that he (plinkers are predominantly, although not exclusively, male) has a problem.

If you suspect you might need the program, but aren’t sure, look for these telltale signs in your own behavior: If you look at an empty food container, does your trigger finger begin to itch? Does the mere smell of gun oil cause your ears to start ringing?

Can you rattle off ballistics specifications of every type of ammunition and firearm manufactured since WWII, but the names and ages of your children escape you? Help is available. Call Ammunition-users Anonymous now and enroll in their voluntary (and some say controversial) Microsoft Xbox gaming program now.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at


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