“The hunger for facile wisdom is the root of all false philosophy.” George Santayana
Growing up I have many fond memories of just being a kid. My poor mother had three boys in a row, boys given to mischief and roughhousing. I do not think we were horrible, but my mother had to learn to patch more than clothing. Scrapes, cuts, and dirty faces were probably the norm after a day of playing outside. We climbed trees, built forts, even tried to get my younger brother to jump of the roof with a pillowcase for a parachute. Again, my poor mother.
I also remember watching some classic shows growing up, mostly reruns, but we loved them! The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Bonanza, to name a few. Of course there were other shows, but I vividly remember seeing those cowboys riding their horses and shooting it out with the bad guys. My parents never owned any weapons, so we were never taught how to shoot. I don’t even remember there being a BB gun until I was a teen. But I remember having toy guns throughout my childhood. We had fun-filled days playing war or western shootouts, even when we ran out of the explosive caps, you remember that little strip of paper with a little powder pockets. Those usually lasted only a few minutes, but we had loads of fun.
Today, we hear of the PC police’s efforts to punish children and parents for simulated guns, toy guns, or even a real gun under a parent’s watchful eye. Recently, a child got in trouble at school for forming the shape of a gun with his index finger and thumb. In another case, a 5-year-old being suspended for bringing his plastic (orange tipped, cowboy style) gun to school. And still another child’s parents got a visit from authorities for a Facebook posting showing a picture of his son holding a rifle. If you look closely at this kid, you can see his finger is outside the trigger guard, which is the first “safety” on any gun. I’d say his dad is teaching him proper handling and respect for weapons.
But are guns truly to blame for the woes of our society? The pictures you see posted are from old television shows and kids playing. The adults who grew up watching these shows or mimicked their favorites are none the worse for those experiences. The Nanny State would have you believe that exposing kids to this behavior is the cause for violence in our society. Of course, that theory is incorrect.
Humans have always had among us those that will not conform to societal norms. I have said before that a gun is just another tool to be used responsibly or malevolently depending on the nature of the person wielding that tool. The purpose behind any gun restriction should be to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane, not the law abiding citizens.
There are many similarities with children of yesteryear and today, but there are now some major differences as well. Today’s child is often smothered by over-protective, coddling parents, if both parents are involved. I do not want to get into a philosophical debate about this, but children (especially boys) need to experience wanderlust to explore, create, imagine, get dirty, and yes even scrape a few knees and elbows. It teaches us skills we will use later in life, to put them on a virtual leash is to rob them of those skills. These skills do not lend to violence, but rather gives the child a healthy respect for fear, imagination, and creativity. And as children often play together, it gives them skills for social interaction, developing bonds, and respect for others. Sitting at a computer, television, or game console is creating a generation of isolated individuals. Argue all you want about the violent nature of shows or video games, I think this isolation (combined with parent(s) still attached to the umbilical cord) is the most damaging.
The phenomenon of mass shootings, rampage killers, or serial killers are not new to humanity, nor unique to the United States. Humans have always found ways to kill each other more efficiently, the gun is just the apex personal tool at this moment in human history. Who knows, maybe someday laser guns will be a reality and people will just zap others into piles of ash. Then projectile weapons will go the way of flintlocks.
In truth, the most dangerous weapon on the planet resides within the heart. In many of the cases you find the perpetrator previously displayed criminal behavior or serious mental health issues. Many times they are described as loners, outcasts, or socially inept to name a few. Whether that is a result of upbringing, severe mental defect, or pure evil I cannot know. It stands to reason though, that these factors are the primary motivators behind their actions, not their weapon of choice.
The tragedies that have unfolded in recent memory are indeed horrible. However, unless there is a way to know the malevolence in someone’s heart there is little that can be done to stop that first break from the societal precept that murdering someone else is wrong. However, we do have many examples of intervention by an armed person who prevented further havoc.
I do not know if having more armed citizens would have stopped the Sandy Hook tragedy. I do know that the possibility of an intervention goes up with the number of law-abiding citizens who possess the courage and means by which to stop such threats.
September 11, 2001 taught us that box cutters, airplanes, and the twisted hearts of Islamic terrorists resulted in a massive loss of life. I am not suggesting that people should carry guns on planes, we would probably end up with a bunch of downed aircraft. But it reminds me of two things. One, evil people will indiscriminately kill whether armed with guns or whatever tool they have handy. Second, the phrase “Let’s roll” reminds us that people with courage will stand up against whatever malevolence confronts them, even when faced with their own demise.
The current debate about gun control displays the facile nature of the Nanny State and is absurd at best. Unless there is another agenda entirely, like disarming a population so no barrier exists to authoritarian rule. And that, my friends, is why we all must be vigilant.
So I say, remember when you were a kid, and let today’s children just be kids.
Anthony J. Wells
Published on The Radical Middle, 3/21/2013.