I can't put my finger on the exact moment -- the trigger, if you will -- that I realized America's gun fetish was heinously out of control. As a high school junior, I watched the news report about the Columbine massacre with my mom, a high school English teacher, after we'd both gotten home from our respective schools. At that time, I don't remember being scared for my life, but rather for my mom's life. I only had a year left of high school, and it seemed pretty safe, but my mom taught at a school for "alternative" kids, aka kids who had been kicked out of other schools or had disciplinary records, and while no one there ever tried to kill anyone (there were several stolen cars, and my mom's purse was stolen out of her own classroom), she'd known a teacher at another school who had been killed by a student with a handgun. Back then, hearing about children shooting semi-automatic weapons wasn't even the norm. Yet.
Today, we hear about random shootings constantly, many of them involving weapons I don't always recognize by name. I'm not a gamer, or a hunter, or a lover of weapons in general. I don't get off on saying things like, "When the shit hits the fan in this country, I'll be ready!" with a casual nod to my arsenal of machine guns. But having grown up in Atlanta, Georgia, where the dumbest person you'll ever meet in your life could be legally carrying a gun around a grocery store, ready to shoot at any second, I'm aware of how much people love their guns. They sleep with them, clean them, wave them around in YouTube videos, and pose with them on Instagram -- and I'm not just talking about irresponsible teenagers. I'm talking about mature adults who want to look like "badasses," many of whom seem to be going for a "Western frontier" look, because, you know, things were pretty awesome in the 19th century when there was reckless lawlessness and no plumbing. It's this particular subset of gun enthusiast that scares me, and it's not only because I worry about what they're capable of doing. I worry about what their kids are capable of doing.
Ever since receiving this image, which I posted on STFU, Parents three years ago -- a year before writing a response to the Colorado shootings here on Mommyish, and a year and a half before posting about the Sandy Hook horror -- I've had an acute awareness of the increased popularity of militarized weaponry:
Seeing a little baby get so acquainted with a weapon that's designed to put a bullet between the eyes of a combatant over a mile away is alarming, to say the least. But what's really scary is the number of files I've received in the past three years that resemble this one. Sure, not every photo features a sniper rifle, but why has it become so "cool" to take pictures of babies with guns in the first place? What does it say about our society that photos of this nature are now as commonplace as cheesy (and harmless) Olan Mills Studio photos were when I was a kid? What do parents teach their kids when they pose them with guns? And what sense of satisfaction do they stand to gain from posting pictures on Facebook that say (to me, anyway), "Check out my baby! WE'RE ARMED AND DANGEROUS!"?
The owner of the Arizona gun range where a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her instructor told reporters that shooting an Uzi "was something that was high on her bucket list to do, and her parents took her out to do what she was going to do." That statement is as ridiculous as it is terrifying. He was probably telling the truth. But you have to wonder, what nine-year-old has "shooting an Uzi" on her bucket list? My bucket list when I was nine entailed learning how to French braid and make friendship bracelets. I have to assume that's partly because my parents didn't expose me to guns and tell me how they cool they were. There are no photos of me as a kid cradling a gun instead of a stuffed animal. There are no pictures of my brother having "tummy time" with a sniper rifle. I know that many parents teach their kids how to handle guns responsibly, and going to the gun range is part of that training, but the "responsible training" argument doesn't hold as much water as it used to. It can't. And every time I get a submission like the ones in this column, I'm reminded that we're moving in the wrong direction by placing guns into children's hands. I'm sure the parents who post these images on Facebook think they're being funny, or patriotic, but all I see is a future generation of gun worshippers whose parents taught them the "value" of gun ownership before they learned the value of human life.
1. Mama Bear Meets G.I. Jane
You know what's fun? Maternity photo shoots in fall foliage. All you need are some beautiful changing leaves, a yard or clearing of some kind, and a few accessories like a cute scarf, your favorite pair of Uggs, and your most attractive fully automatic weapon. Perfection. This one's a framer!
2. "Keep 'Em Clean, Keep 'Em True."
Here's a short list of things that babies notoriously love:
- Colorful shapes
- The rush of power they get after a rifle is placed oh-so-gently across their laps. Trust me, it's never too soon to give babies the gift of armed authority.
3. Playtime Around The House
When you're done singing songs about the Itsy Bitsy Spider or reading books about Curious George, you can teach your kids all about the joys of firearms. A good place to do this might be in the bathroom during potty time, in the front yard (but stay aware of nosy neighbors), or in the bedroom near your oversized gun rack. Kids LOVE learning about firing chambers, magazine clips, and how many lives they could potentially take out in less than a minute. They also love holding powerful tools capable of immense violence -- especially when the guns are even bigger than they are!
Why take your kid to a zoo to pet llamas and sheep when what they really want to do is touch the barrel of an assault rifle? After you're done explaining why the gun is the coolest fucking thing that's ever been invented, they won't even care about going to the zoo anymore! They'll just be counting down the days 'til they can watch mommy and daddy fire off those bad boys for hours at a range. Aww...I can practically hear the kids screaming for "their turn" now. 🙂
4. Every Kid Needs A BB Gun
Hey Brad, quick question: Are you really so stupid as to not notice that the image you're posting on social media involves a woman raising her hand in defense against your toddler and his BB gun? I also love how the woman sitting in front of the kid is nonchalantly on her phone. This picture actually says so much about the state of America, it should be hanging in a gallery. For every parent whose goal it is to responsibly instill respect for guns in their child, there are 10 guys like Brad who hand their toddlers BB guns and tell them to go have fun.
5. Clinging To Guns And Bibles
Brad's toddler may not know how to aim or shoot a gun, but Paul's older kid (by a few years at most) sure does. I'm not sure what's more fucked up -- the photo's caption, the idea that Paul made this his profile picture, or the fact that this kid looks like he's standing "wherever" and aiming a gun at "whatever" like it's no big deal. I know *I* would feel safe if I saw this kid standing with his finger on the trigger in a parking lot. Who wouldn't?
6. The Modern Family Portrait
This submission is from 2011 (i.e. for the past three years, it's been burning a hole in my "Crazy People" submissions folder), and I can only imagine how many similar iterations have been taken by countless American families since. The expression on the dad's face can best be described as "stoked," and the expression on the mom's face is, "That's right, bitchez!" What's sexier than pointing a gun at your child's father and posting a picture on Facebook? Nothing! These two are fearless, gun-collecting mama bear and papa bear renegades, and one day (possibly now!) their child will be old enough to appreciate what awesome parents he has. After all, just look at them. Is this the picture of the American nuclear family or WHAT? In 2014, you bet your ass it is. If you've got something to say about that, try telling it Jesse and his wife while standing on their property. You probably won't be standing there for long.