National Gun Fetish is Double-Barrel Menace


The April Texas Monthly is a special issue – a .38 Special, if you will. It’s about guns.

Page after page, see and hear about Texans and their rods. A cover shot and photo gallery show people and their beloved rifles, carbines and sidearms. See former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson pose with his Colt .45 like one might a trophy walleye. If one could peer down that barrel, you’d bet one could see into the man’s soul.

Artist Matthew Diffee depicts what he saw and heard at a San Antonio gun show. One quote: “We sell freedom implements and other bunker supplies.”

Ah, freedom. In a bunker.

I understand how a few readers might see it differently, but one must ask how this form of fetishism took root.

After all, a firearm is an appliance that shoots a projectile. I have a toaster. It shoots toast.

Precedent set, we can look forward to Texas Monthly’s “Toast” issue. For the photo gallery, I offer to pose with my Sunbeam 2-Slicer. We are inseparable. My slogan: “Toast — the taste of freedom.”

No one should take this as a criticism of gun ownership. My father had a service revolver, making him one among millions. One distinction: He was openly disdainful of any group that, like the NRA, would make the gun the Golden Calf of our time.

Once again: A rifle is an appliance. So when something called the National Rifle Association can be considered Washington’s most powerful lobbying arm, one wonders what power the National Waffle Iron Association could wield.

The other day legions of petitioners called on the Republican Party to allow the open carrying of firearms at the national convention this summer in Cleveland. Fortunately, the Secret Service expressed its reservations.

As a fallback, petitioners could ask the Secret Service to allow the brandishing of blenders and food processors. Therein lies the solidarity of a great cause. I’ll yield my Cuisinart when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

None can dispute the utility of rifles for trophy-hunting possum or nutria on a river bank. However, it is necessary to wonder how one’s gun has become the extension of one’s self.

As a child, I never questioned why Davy Crockett called his rifle “Old Betsy,” but I am quite sure he didn’t plan to marry her. For some of those portrayed by Texas Monthly’s cavalcade of exhibitionism, one wonders if nuptials were performed.

The line is, “Guns don’t kill people.” True in the abstract. However, guns are more likely to kill when their owners have transformed them into Pixar characters. The term is “anthropomorphizing.” Webster’s will explain that for you.

I understand how guns are “part of our heritage.” So, too, is the butter churn. I understand how guns have “preserved the peace.” So, too, have handshakes.

The problem, of course, is that firearms kill thousands of Americans every year. In sum, and inarguably, guns don’t make this a safer place (“keeping the peace”). They make it far more dangerous than – say, oh, just about anywhere where run racks aren’t treated like communion candles.

Reasonable gun regulations that would save lives are thwarted by unreasonable parties. Meanwhile, gun industry proxies terrorize lawmakers into doing their bidding.

I am the first to acknowledge that I would react violently if government knocked on my door to take away my toaster. However, I’ve told myself that’s an overreaction. Considering how little has been done in 30 years to alter the proliferation of appliances that kill in bunches, maybe the bunker I had planned for my front yard would be overkill.

John Young is a longtime Texas newspaperman who now lives in Fort Collins, Colo. Email See

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2016

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