Thursday, May 31, 2007

Guns and Poetry

There’s a difference between gun owners and gun nuts. You can be a gun owner without being a gun nut, but I can’t imagine there being any gun nuts who aren’t gun owners. (Although I suppose it’s possible. There are a lot of people who are nuts about occupying Iraq but who can’t bring themselves to enlist and occupy it themselves.)

I think gun owners cross the line into gun nuttery when they (1) interpret even the slightest gun control effort as the first step in a massive national gun roundup, and (2) believe that more guns are the answer to all of life’s problems. After the Virginia Tech shooting, some of these people said the tragedy could have been averted if students were allowed to carry concealed weapons.

Because that’s what you want: A campus full of wanna-be heroes and bullets flying every which way. Joe Sophomore takes a shot at the crazy Korean kid, Tom Freshman hears the report and takes a shot at Joe Sophomore, and Bob Junior, who’s been holding a grudge ever since Tom spilled beer on him at the Phi Psi kegger, seizes the opportunity to save the college from the beer-spillin’, random-shootin’ freshman. Ker-pow.

But, in the words of Arlo Guthrie, that’s not what I came to talk to you about. I came to talk to you about the Burma Shave-style signs you’ll find on I-74 between Champaign, Illinois and the Indiana state line.

The signs are posted by the Champaign County Rifle Association, and they’re just like the old Burma Shave signs that appeared on American highways from 1929-1963. Each set of five signs has a bit of doggerel in the abab rhyme scheme, and the final sign points you to a website where you can learn more about how guns are your friends.

I have no issue with gun safety education or roadside poetry either one. I don’t begrudge anyone a spirited defense of the Second Amendment, at least until they start dipping into gun nuttery as described in the second paragraph. My problem with these verses is that they suggest utterly simplistic and unrealistic solutions to real problems.

Which makes them fair game here at the Runes.

Here’s a verse I saw recently:

Police don’t always
Arrive in time
What protects you
During the crime?

Now, what they want you to think is “Aha, a gun! A gun would protect me during the crime! If I only had a gun, I could avoid being robbed, raped, murdered, etc.” But unless you’re a quick-draw artist on a par with Billy the Kid, you’re no match for someone who’s got the drop on you. That’s the thing about bad guys. If they’re mugging you or robbing your house, they’ve got a plan. If you’ve been taken by surprise, you don’t.

If you’re being physically assaulted, it only makes sense to fight back. But if someone’s after your money, it seems to me that what protects you during the crime is keeping your damn mouth shut.

Here’s another one:

Terrorists love
Gun control
Unarmed victims
Are their goal

Wow, it’s really too bad there wasn’t an armed security guard in the World Trade Center that day. “You just turn that plane right around, Mister.”

I’m sure the guy who came up with that poem patted himself on the back for a long time, but honestly—is he even aware of the definition of terrorism? To borrow a phrase from Batman, terrorists are a cowardly lot. They operate on the sly, planting bombs and then getting the hell away from them (except for the suicide bombers, to whom a gun would be a laughable deterrent).

I suspect the “terrorists” poem was just an attempt to link terrorism and gun control, which in rural Illinois might well be code for “Democrats.” Either way, I don’t think terrorists particularly care whether their victims are armed or not.

(And by the way, when I say terrorists I’m talking about people trying to achieve a political advantage through the use of violence. I’m not using the George W. Bush definition, which is essentially “Anyone who gets in my way” or “Anyone I can fool my remaining supporters into believing is out to get them.”)

Next time I travel to Indiana I’ll write down some more of these gems. In the meantime, here’s one of my own:

Violets are blue
Roses are red
I woke up and found a burglar in my home and tried to be a hero by pulling a gun on him
Now I’m dead

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Come back to GRB, we miss you.