Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gun Buyers Follow Heroes

Gun ownership in the United states is strongly influenced by "Hero Worship." This is not a bad thing, but is a thread of human nature to elmulate the lifestyle, tastes and action of people we admire. This identification extends to things as well as people. Trend setters and trend setting products affect our lives; which is also an important guide to successful advertising. Own a hot car, dress in a cutting edge fashion outfit, play tennis with a carbon racket. Race car drivers plug hot cars, sophisticated models wear sharp designer clothes and athletes get the most out of sports technology.

Gun owners are no different. We have heroes who have championed a variety of firearms depending on the media that influences us. In TV and the movies, Steve McQueen was cool with his sawed off Winchester "mare's leg." Clint Eastmood made the .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson desireable. World War II and police battling gangsters have used up arsenals of high tech weapons to great visual effect. And the latest video games offer super realistc combat and civilian warfare depictions.

Today, every time a soldier returns from Afghanistan, out come the flags, motorcycle honor guards and crowds lining the street to welcome home the young warrior. Our troops are our latest and most closely held heroes because they come directly from us, not from some author's imagination. Every night we see them on the news patroling dangerous ground in foreign lands, and we remember these are volunteer soldiers, not draftees. Our hearts go out to them. Now, look at what weapons they carry.

A story: When I was a little kid, I had no sports skills and only held my place in my neighborhood gang by being the "goofy guy" who could always make the other kids laugh: with me, at me, I didn't care. I got the laugh and was accepted. We used a lot of toy guns in our play what with WWII just ended and the Korean conflict just amping up. I wanted a machine gun. Instead, my Dad managed to get me an actual Model 1903 Springfield bolt action training rifle. The bolt worked, the trigger clicked, but the breech was welded shut. The first day I went out the door and into the park next to our apartment, chaos erupted. I was looking for my pals, walking along with this real rifle on my shoulder. I am nine years old and this rifle is almost as long as I am tall. The park is now empty except for this Park District Cop watching me from behind a tree. He is not alone. I walked over to a tree and crouched down, trying to see what they are looking at. They are all looking at me. A cop called out, "Kid! Put down the rifle!" I did and very soon thereafter I was surrounded by a forest of blue pantlegs. I was spared a savage beating or a soul-sucking prison sentence. One of the cops walked me and my rifle home.

We love to emulate our heroes and assault rifles are the latest extension of that hero worship. The
M-4 is a "weapon." Any assault-style firearm based on their respective combat version is a weapon. To me, walking around with that very real rifle gave me the self -esteem I so lacked. It was way too heavy to play with. The bolt action was clumsy for small hands -- and it was sure no machine gun. Later, when I was in a real combat zone, surrounded by lethal weapons, or when I carried a gun for a living in Arizona, I discovered how careful you have to be in life when threats are a 360 degree consideration. The sport of marksmanship is a character builder and a demanding skill, but weapons should be left to our military and police.