Calhoun's Cannons for May 9, 2013
The "Crickett" worked perfectly. It wasn't a toy, although it looked like one, like a miniature version of Daddy's gun. But it wasn't a toy. It was a specially designed, kid-size .22 advertised as "My first rifle." And it was designed for ease of operation: Put a bullet in, pull the trigger and the bullet is discharged at deadly velocity. Simple enough for a 5-year-old to operate. The "Crickett" is great little rifle for shooting at tin cans, paper targets, and for killing squirrels, rabbits and 2-year-old sisters.
Which is what happened in Kentucky. A five-year-old was given a "Crickett" for his birthday. He used his new gun as intended and now his sister's dead. Latte-sipping suburban liberals were outraged. What kind of moron would deliberately buy a child a lethal weapon specifically designed to be used by a child? Gun-culture rural folks, sneerers at all things latte, shrugged. Nothing wrong with giving a 5-year-old a rifle. It's a family tradition. And accidents happen.
Then everybody blamed the parents for being (a) morons or (b) irresponsible.
The sad case wasn't without irony, however. Had the "Crickett" been a child's stuffy toy with poorly secured button eyes that could come off and choke a child, the toy would have been taken off the market for violating child-safety laws. Ditto for some harmless alphabet blocks painted with toxic paint that might be ingested. Indeed, the states are woven thick with laws that are specifically designed to protect children from things likely to harm them -- cribs that strangle, toys that poke eyes out, items that are choking hazards.
But a kid-sized rifle that can kill when used as designed, is apparently not among those hazards that require government oversight.
At the recent NRA convention, the whole recent" gun dialogue" was re-framed as a "culture war," which meant the narrative could now shift from the sensible into the soupy morass of the loonier right-wing irrational, psycho/sexual, fear-fueled paranoid realm of the Aggrieved Christian White Male Gun Guy. "[You] here in this room are the fighters for freedom. We are the protectors," said the new NRA President, James Porter.
Protectors. Neo-Davy Crocketts with their "Cricketts" atop the walls of the Alamo standing athwart government tyranny. Except, in this case, our stalwart Protectors wouldn't be facing Santa Ana's rusty muskets, they'd be facing Seal Team 6's and Hell-fire missiles arriving from unseen drones.
Alamo fantasies, but, no matter. In the "culture wars," reality takes a back seat to overheated rhetoric, especially when there's money to be made from fear-fueled gun sales.
Dan Baum, a latte-sipping east coast liberal, who is also a serious Gun Guy, spent a good deal of time on the road, criss-crossing America and talking to his fellow "gun culture" warriors. His book, "Gun Guys; A Road Trip," is the result. And what he found is not surprising: There is a very real, perfectly sane, respectable "gun culture" in America-- family traditions of hunting, target shooting, generations of responsible gun ownership and use in everyday life. And there's a smaller cadre of seriously disturbed "culture warriors" whose relationship to guns slips past "tradition" and into far murkier, more dangerous waters. And until the former group reins in the latter, there will be little hope of bridging the gulf of disrespect/disbelief that's now gaping between outraged LatteVille and paranoid GunVille.
In an MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes, Baum set the matter more clearly: Gun Guys aren't being adults, aren't doing a good job as responsible gun owners, and need to step up on all fronts. To Baum, a gun is not a toy, not a psycho/sexual crutch, not a phony rhetorical device. Baum also found that being armed and trained created in him a mental state that was a combination of "sheepdog vigilance and scrupulous self-control." And for any serious Gun Guy, a gun should be "on your hip, in your hand, or locked in a safe," the combination of which is known only by the responsible adult in the house." As Baum notes, if Adam Lanza's mother had been a responsible Gun Gal, the NewTown massacre wouldn't have been possible. Ditto for the Kentucky family who bought their little son a "Crickett."
In short, gun owners are doing a sloppy job as stewards of their "gun culture." And until they step up, the insanity -- and the killing -- will continue unabated.