Gun Crazy

With the logical targets of the gun control movement out of reach, they’ve decided to pick on someone much smaller than themselves.

By Jim Knipfel


It’s become a hilariously predictable pattern. Following the most recent mass shooting (take your pick, or just wait until next week’s), the same thing happens. One half of the country gets all hair-pully, jumping about and screaming that we need more gun control. We need to close this or that loophole that allows the patently insane and murderous to freely and legally buy guns at the Wal-Mart. We need to crack down on gun makers, gun sellers, the NRA and those politicians who take contributions from the NRA. Then they hold candlelight vigils and marches where they chant things like “Boy oh boy, this gun violence business is really, really bad.” Meanwhile the other half of the country gets similarly hair-pully, jumping around and screaming about the Second Amendment before making a run to the nearest gun shop to buy up as many firearms as they can carry, convinced the day is right around the corner when (legally) armed government stormtroopers will begin making house-to-house searches, confiscating anything that even vaguely resembles a gun. Fireplace starters, garden hose nozzles, everything.


The braying on both sides will continue for two weeks, and then we’ll all forget about it again, as easily distracted as we are by the latest celebrity breakdown or some new comic book movie.


Thing is, even if the federal government passed a fierce and universal ban on the manufacture and sale of all firearms in the United States effective immediately, there are so many guns out there as it is, legal or otherwise, it would do absolutely nothing to stem the mass shootings and armed convenience store robberies. At least until everyone runs out of ammo. Over the decades it’s become obvious nothing will or can be done to stop gun violence, which is as much a part of the American landscape as the Mississippi. So in our impotence, what do we do? Simple—we go after something we can control and squash easily, namely children’s imaginations. That’ll show ‘em!


I grew up surrounded by gun culture. There were guns in virtually every household in the area, and most people had full arsenals. Beginning in the 7th grade, Gun Safety was a regularly offered elective throughout the school system, and it was not at all unusual to pass a 12-year-old in the hallway who was carrying a shotgun. Guns were everywhere, but you know, I can’t remember a single instance back then of someone in the area turning a firearm on another human being in a fit of pique.


Maybe that’s why I was so mortified when the War on Fun got underway in the mid-‘80s. The first salvo I remember came when panicky, namby-pamby parents groups successfully lobbied to censor Warner Brothers cartoons, convinced their youngsters were being scarred for life by all the violent hijinks. Suddenly Elmer Fudd never fired his shotgun anymore, and Daffy Duck never got his bill blown off in assorted humorous ways. The coyote might fall off a cliff but he never hit the ground, and lord knows nobody ever drank or gobbled a bottle full of nerve pills. In a flash, classic WB shorts not only stopped being funny, they became incoherent jumbles of disconnected images, which strikes me as far more potentially damaging to impressionable young psyches than Bugs Bunny dropping a brick on someone.


In the three decades since, the war and the accompanying stupid madness has only escalated. Cap guns vanished from toy store shelves and squirt guns morphed from realistic-looking pistols and Tommy guns into bulbous, brightly-colored green, orange and yellow things (though that didn’t stop kids carrying them from being shot by cops). Schoolyard standbys like Cops & Robbers (let alone, lord help us) Cowboys & Indians) were outlawed. In more recent years, grade schoolers have found themselves expelled and facing assault and menacing charges for pointing fingers or crayons at classmates in a gun-like manner or saying “bang” inappropriately. And last week a 7th grader in Rosenberg, Texas found himself in a world of shit for wearing a Star Wars t-shirt, given the Stormtrooper image was taken to be a promotion of willy-nilly mayhem and bloodshed. It seems the only outlets allowed kids today are heart-pounding games of “Let’s Share Our Cha-Cha Sticks!” and “Everyone Be Nice to Everyone!”


Of course the thinking is if we extract our children from the culture of violence, deprogram them, remove them from anything resembling a perfectly natural outlet for their perfectly natural rambunctious imaginations, threatening to bring in the law when they won’t comply, we’ll breed a whole generation of peaceful and loving citizens concerned about the welfare of others.


Personally, though, I fully suspect this maniacal and deeply wrongheaded impulse on the part of twitchy adults might well explain why over the course of the past year alone, so many kids under the age of 10 (and some as young as 18 months) have gotten their hands on their parents guns and shot their friends, themselves, and any number of unlucky family members. It seems the only natural reaction. They’re the first wave of soldiers in the War to Take Back Fun.


Published December 24th, 2015

Jim Knipfel is the author of Slackjaw, The Blow-Off, These Children Who Come at You With Knives, and several other books.