For my tenth birthday, I wanted a BB gun. Like the mother in "A Christmas story," mom simply said, "You'll shoot your eye out." Dad had a wiser response. He gave me a choice. I could have the BB gun or a pair of Roy Rogers cap pistols I had been admiring. He made it clear to me that once I owned a weapon that actually fired real projectiles — even if they were only BBs — my toy gun days were over. I chose the pistols, and he knew I wasn't ready for the real thing.
Two years later, at age twelve, with my toy gun days behind me, Dad bought me a bolt-action .22-caliber rifle and taught me how to use it — safely. I still remember the three simple rules he taught me: this is not a toy, never point it at anyone, and always assume that it is loaded.
As I grew into a teenager, I always knew where Dad kept our guns — mine and his. They were not locked up. They were standing in their cases in the closet in my parents' bedroom, with the ammunition on the shelf above. Yet never once did it occur to me to take those guns to school and shoot my classmates. Nor did I ever contemplate walking into a packed movie theater or a crowded mall and begin firing.
None of us has any way of knowing whether James Holmes, the shooter in Aurora, Colorado, is simply an evil genius putting on an act in court or if he is a loon who really believes he is Batman's nemesis, the Joker. We don't know if his father ever taught him how to use firearms, or if he got his knowledge from watching TV and movies, and playing violent video games.
What we do know is that a society that once lived in reality has evolved into a culture wallowing in fantasy violence, ruled by people whose goal is to disarm the good guys, leaving us all at the mercy of the bad guys.
We know that, like so many communities today, Aurora, Colorado, did not allow law-abiding gun owners to carry their weapons into the theater that night. Perhaps if they had, someone might have been able to stop Holmes before he killed a dozen innocent people and wounded scores of others.
Even in states that allow concealed carry of firearms, politically correct business owners can forbid the possession of such weapons in their establishments. A sign on the door of the Von Maur department store in Omaha, Nebraska, announces that guns are not allowed. On December 5, 2007, 19-year-old Robert Hawkins read that sign as follows: "Even our security guards are unarmed! Come on in and shoot us!" So he did, killing eight people and wounding five others.
Shortly after my dad bought me those cap pistols instead of that BB gun, a teenage punk named Charles Starkweather went on a rampage across Nebraska, killing eleven people. The entire Midwest was terrified. As the debate again heats up over banning certain sized magazines for particular weapons, limiting the quantities and calibers of ammo, as well as other new forms of gun control, it is instructive to note that Starkweather's weapons of choice on that spree were a pistol, a knife, a .22 rifle, similar to mine, and a .410 shotgun like one I almost bought a few years later.
Charles Starkweather proved in 1958 that he could kill just as many people with a .22 rifle and a small caliber shotgun as Robert Hawkins or James Holmes could a half-century later with a so-called assault rifle. Evil finds a way. As Bruce Wayne's butler tells him in a previous Batman movie, "Some men just want to watch the world burn."
In the wake of these latest murders, as you hear our politicians blather on about more gun control, remember that 100 million gun owners didn't kill anyone last week. They are the good guys. They are on our side.
© 2012 by Doug Patton, Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself much more often than not. Astute supporters and inane detractors alike are encouraged to e-mail him with their pithy comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now working as a freelance writer, his weekly columns are syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For info on using his column at your publication or website, please email Cari Dawson Bartley at email@example.com.