An idea that deserved to fail


A few weeks ago, a story appeared in the New York Times, indicating that the NRA was behind a campaign of essentially normalizing guns for children. The idea was to get kids into things like paintball, but also to plant the seed in their minds that maybe shooting real guns was worth looking into down the road.

I hope whoever wrote this story wins an award somewhere, because it reveals exactly what those of us who want fewer guns, and not more guns, are up against. In some way, it allowed us to get the drop on the NRA. Ironically enough, I just used a term that had its origins as a gun reference, before taking on a more general meaning later on. Funny how that works.

So when I saw the display above in a big box store in the suburbs today, I felt happy. The item being sold off was a gun that can be used in a snowball fight. It was a cheap plastic thing that looked like it relied on rubber bands to propel the snowball, and someone bought these up and priced them at $20. Today, they were being sold off at $6 each, and there were enough of them on hand to give me the distinct impression that the store had wildly overestimated the public’s interest in such a product.

We received very little snow this winter, and since it’s nearly March, all Winter items are probably going to be sold at a markdown soon. But I want to believe that whoever thought a snowball gun was a good idea has learned a lesson. May we never see such a stupid product on store shelves again.

Any kid–and I’m convinced nobody over the age of about twelve would want this–who wants to shoot a snowball at someone is not the kind of kid I want my own kids to be around. The NRA is probably giddy about it, though.

Maybe this is how the Newtown shooter, or the Aurora shooter, or any of a thousand other people who pull a trigger and end a life–or at least try to–got their start. Not with a snowball gun, perhaps, but with the idea that it’s acceptable to use a weapon to hurt someone. If ever there was a place where no weapons should ever be used, a snowball fight is it.

Should these childhood rituals ever become militarized, the NRA really will have a victory on their hands. But the scene at one suburban store has me hopeful, at least.

I got you, babe


Groundhog Day is one of the more ingenious movies to have come along in my lifetime. Yes, it’s funny, and that made it entertaining to watch. But what made it ingenious was how it has become a cultural shorthand for the same thing happening over and over and over again. When you tell someone that something is “like Groundhog Day” they know exactly what you mean. And how many movies can you say that about?

One of the things about Phil, Bill Murray’s character in the movie, is that once he realizes what’s going on with the same day being repeated over and over again, he uses this recurrence to modify his behavior. Take the scene where he asks Rita, Andie McDowell’s character, out for some coffee. He learns about what she likes, and then goes about becoming that person. He learns to play the piano, after he discovers that she wants a guy who’s a musician. He then gets the girl, and as a result his repeating day spell is broken the next day. There was no more “I got you, babe” played on the radio to start each day.

So I want to apply this lesson to the wave of gun shootings taking place in this country. When someone shoots up a high school in Colorado, or a college campus in Virginia, or a mosque in Wisconsin, we should take notes and learn from those experiences. The shooter who killed several people in Arizona, and severely wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, had to stop firing to reload his weapon, and that’s when he was taken down. So smaller magazines would make a difference to prevent these things from happening again. We can learn from the tragedies, in order to prevent similar ones in the future. That shouldn’t be so hard to do.

But the gun makers don’t see it that way. Using the Second Amendment as a full and complete bar to any sort of reasonable gun restrictions–which might save the lives of innocent bystanders one day in the future–they go to great lengths to suggest that no changes should be made. And they throw their political and PR weight around until we, as a nation, get distracted by something else, and then life goes on. Or, at least it does until the next gun massacre takes place. Modifying our collective behavior in the hopes of getting the girl isn’t in the NRA’s playbook, because they’ve already got the girl right now. It’s the rest of us that have to watch as children are blasted into bloody bits.

Let’s see this for what it is. “Getting the girl” as Phil saw it in Groundhog Day, is reaching a point where these massacres don’t happen quite so much anymore. The experiences of Newtown and Aurora and the Kenwood neighborhood in Chicago can all help us to get there, if we make this a priority.

Let’s all of us understand that the NRA doesn’t want us to get the girl, and will do everything it can–up to and including distorting the Constitution–in order to see that it doesn’t happen. For a group of unarmed children standing in a park on a rainy day after final exams are over, their answer is to put more guns into the equation, not to remove the one that was already there. But that way of thinking won’t help any of us learn from the past. And it will only provide a steady diet of “I got you, babe” in the morning.

I’m on the President’s side


My one and only uncle-by-marriage was an avid hunter, and I could count the number of times I actually saw him in my life, if not on one hand, then certainly on two. The only time I can remember being his house was  horrifying to me, because a large trophy was mounted on the wall of his, was it a den? Whatever he called it, there was a deer’s head and a very large set of antlers that dominated the room. The first time I saw it–and I think I was about ten years old–I knew I could never be a hunter. Killing that animal, and then mounting its head on the wall, struck me as a barbaric act.

At Christmas dinner every year, my uncle would go on and on about the Nashnul Rahful Soseeashun and what a good thing they were doing for all Americans. He must have known that my family had no guns, and had no inclination toward guns, and this must have rubbed him the wrong way. Just like evangelicals go out looking for converts to their religion, my uncle seemed to think that we should all own and use guns, even if we didn’t realize it.

The last time I saw my uncle, not long before I left my hometown to go away for college, he offered to enroll me in a gun training course, and to pay for it himself. Knowing how little I actually saw him, and not being the least bit interested in learning how to shoot a gun or a rifle or anything of that nature, I put him off with some sort of an “I’ll think about it” line. And sure enough, I never saw him again, as he passed away several years later.

I thought about my uncle in the wake of the Newtown Massacre last month. Why none of the other shooting rampages brought him to mind is beyond me. But I remembered the offer that he made to me the last time I saw him, and it made Adam Lanza a bit more understandable to me. Adam Lanza’s mother had guns, and she took her son to shooting ranges with her. Guns were introduced to him at an early age, by an older family member.

I was never introduced to guns, by my father, my uncle, or anyone else, but I’ve seen what guns have done, and will continue to do, to my city and my nation. Guns have thinned our collective herd, and for some this is the price that must be paid to preserve the Second Amendment. I see it a different way, though. For all of the innocent lives lost in Newtown, and Aurora, and Chicago, and a thousand other places, we need to make our stand.

President Obama is taking a huge risk to his personal safety in doing this, but right is on his side. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

Shut up already, damn

I can’t find the words to express how moronic these statements are. Larry Ward, whoever he is, clearly doesn’t understand American history at all. But whatever gun group is paying him is getting their money’s worth, at least.

I wrote about the gun massacres in Colorado and in Wisconsin after they happened last year, but then I went back to the inane crap that I normally write about here in short order. But Newtown was so grotesque that it’s hard to formulate too many thoughts about other topics. And now it feels like drifting away from a life-and-death subject when I do that. So this is nothing more than an attempt to keep my own focus on the issue. If anyone else reads it, all the better.

I know that the status quo when it comes to guns is fine with some people. But it’s not fine with most people, and it’s not fine with me, either. Democracy rules this country, not guns and the fear of those who own guns. And the people on both sides of the issue would do well to remember that.

NOTE: The title of this post is taken from Prince’s song Housequake from the amazing “Sign o’ the Times” album. Have a listen if you want to.