COEUR D'ALENE, ID—Repression was the order of the day as the National Rifle Association's North Idaho Chapter held its annual convention this weekend.

NRA member James D'Alessandro admires a fellow member's piece, stirring potent feelings within himself.

More than 25,000 dedicated gun lovers from across Northern Idaho flocked to the Coeur d'Alene Convention Center for the two-day event, happily sublimating homosexual impulses amid a carefully maintained facade of platonic camaraderie.

Moscow, ID, resident Richard Hoflinger, 47, a longtime gun-rights activist, proudly exhibited the collection of antique rifles through which he has channeled his culturally unacceptable impulses. "Guns should be part of any upstanding Christian family," Hoflinger said, sticking a long, thick, oily pipe-cleaner 14 inches up an 1886 Remington.

In the next booth, another latent gay man, Duane Erlich of Sandpoint, moved his hand slowly up and down a well-polished 1948 Winchester. "Ain't she a beautiful baby?" Erlich said, displaying the kind of feminization/infantilization of firearms for which NRA members are renowned.

Erlich then demonstrated the proper loading procedure for his "baby," lovingly inserting a pair of bullets into the dark, snug-fitting tunnels before thrusting the gun's bolt smoothly into the action, cocking it firmly.

"This'll blow a man straight to heaven," he said.

The tone of the event was set by chapter president John Henry Unger, whose opening remarks cited the "wonderful variety of weaponry on display, from little snub-nosed pieces that fit snugly in your pocket to big, meaty shooters with barrels as thick as your arm."

Unger then fired his father's prize Colt Peacemaker revolver into the air, drawing raucous applause from the crowd, many of whose own fathers had suppressed latent physical attraction for their adolescent sons by channeling their forbidden feelings into totemistic firearms.

All over the convention floor, gun manufacturers proudly unveiled new technologies which will allow simmering homoerotic tensions to be expressed with greater nuance than ever before. At the Smith & Wesson booth, company spokesman Darrell Trace displayed a handgun made from a newly developed metal alloy whose "incredibly hard" nature, he explained, gives it no recoil after discharge, providing its user with "a far greater sense of control over his piece."

"It's a very comfortable gun, very soft in the hands," added Trace, noting that Smith & Wesson had designed the gun to appeal to "shooters tired of coming home from the firing range with sore, worn-out wrists."

But even as conventioneers reveled in a two-day orgy of firearm-to-phallus transference, a dark cloud hung over the event. The NRA has declined in power over the last decade, and its once-potent lobbyists have come out on the losing end of key legislative battles like the Brady Bill, causing many members to bring their lifelong subconscious fears of castration to the fore.

"If the gun-control lobby wants my rod, they'll have to yank it from my dead body," said Pocatello-area bar-owner Joseph Greer, cradling a tell-tale snub-nosed revolver.

"Those guys out there in Washington are tryin' to take our guns away, but we ain't gonna let 'em," Greer continued, adding classic paternal displacement to the already-rich psychosexual tapestry. "No siree, Bob."