I got guns, you got guns,
all God's children got guns

Sept 27, 1990

I try to stay out of most debates, arguments and shoot-outs about gun control. I get caught in the middle, which is usually the worst place of all to be in anything involving guns. I support the basic right to bear arms, but I prefer toy guns to real guns and somehow don't think Uzis and Saturday night specials were what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they passed the Second Amendment. For this I receive a lot of flak, so I tend to duck behind the Constitution or, better yet, change the subject.

Which brings us to BB guns. A friend of mine's younger brother wanted one for his birthday, and his parents said no. I'll refer to the kid as Marty, since that's his name. I usually change the names to protect the innocent, but if you start changing kid's names in a newspaper article, people usually think you're writing about child abuse. But this isn't child abuse; his parents just won't give him a BB gun, that's all. Besides, I wouldn't exactly call Marty innocent. He wants a BB gun, after all. No youth wants a BB gun for purely innocent, peaceful purposes, like target shooting.

I should know, I had a BB gun when I was a kid. I was also a target for my older brother and his thoroughly non-innocent, non-peaceful purposes. My brother, whose name is Tim, that's T-I-M, once, without provocation, shot me with a BB gun -- not in the patoot, not even in the back, like an honorable coward would, but in the head, just a half-inch to the side of my left eye.

Why? I don't know. We were always being told we'd probably shoot someone's eye out; maybe he was just trying to see if it were possible. Fortunately, he was a bad shot. I survived with just a tiny, round bruise and an even healthier distrust of my brother. These days, he is studying to be a priest. I don't fully understand that one either. Someday, other people may call him Father, but I doubt I ever will. He will always be Deadeye Dick to me.

Despite that unpleasant experience, I'm not yet ready to join the anti-BB gun lobby. After all, BB guns don't shoot people, mean older brothers shoot people. At least, he's the one who shot me. Still, I can't go to the other extreme and support the National BB Gun Association. I don't think the Found ing Fathers had my brother in mind either when they were doing the Bill of Rights. Nope, you won't find me with a bumper sticker on my car saying, "The only way they'll take away my BB gun is by prying it out of my cold, stiff fingers." First of all, I don't have a car. Second, if I did, it'd probably have a hole in the windshield from some kid with a BB gun.

Kids should not have BB guns in the city. There are too many things they can shoot. Younger brothers, older brothers, sisters, children in general. Windows, dogs, cats and cars. Children should be armed only in the country, where they can hunt squirrel and chipmunks the way their forefathers did when this nation was one vast, unexploited wilderness.

Marty lives in the city. His neighborhood, like many others, unfortunately, is full of children, windows, dogs, cats and cars. And squirrels and chipmunks. It's sad.

Marty just turned 12. By that age I had lost interest in BB guns. I was into wrist rockets by then. A wrist rocket, for the uninitiated, is a high-powered slingshot with heavy duty rubber tubing and a bar on the wishbone-shaped handle that braces against your wrist. This slingshot is not a toy; it's a terror weapon. It's got a longer range than a BB gun, more accuracy, and -- with a steelie or a chunk of taconite for a projectile -- far greater destructive power.

Marty has a wrist rocket.

I was surprised.

One of my favorite movies is A Christmas Story , about a boy and his desire for A Dai sy Red Rider air rifle. He is frustrated at every turn. His mother, even Santa Claus himself (granted, of the drunken depart ment story variety), tell him, "You'll shoot your eye out!" It seems his quest is futile, but on Christmas morn, his diligence pays off. He gets the air rifle, goes outside for a little target practice, and has a shooting accident.

He doesn't shoot his eye out. He slips, loses his glasses, and, while trying to find his spectacles, steps on one of the lenses.

I, too, dreamed of a Daisy BB gun as a child. Not the famed Red Rider, just the standard model. Could any gun manufac turer have a name as innocent-sounding as Daisy? Daisy is the Krups of BB guns. Krups was one of the main armaments companies for the Third Reich. Today, Krups makes one of the world's finest coffee makers.

I used to like BB guns. Then I had an ac cident. In a freak accident, a BB ricocheted and shattered one on the lenses of my glasses. My folks thought I might have a piece of glass in my eye, so I was taken to the hospital. The doctor put some weird dye in my eye that turned the white part purple and the iris yellow. It was really neat. There was no glass in my eye. The next day at school, my eye was still purple and yellow. Kids kept wanting to see it.
One of my teachers got really grossed out.    I used to like BB guns. Now I drink a lot of coffee. We all adapt to life's tragedies.

For Marty's birthday, I gave him my tracer gun. I used to have one as a kid, and I bought a new one in a fit of nostalgia. They shoot little round disks that get under the furniture and make evil noises when sucked into the vacuum cleaner. Today's tracer guns aren't as fun as the ones I remember; they don't even sting when you get hit with them.

Painful or not, Marty loved the gift. He shot his sisters with gleeful abandon. As a matter of principle, his mom told him to be careful.

After all, he could shoot somebody's eye out.

© 1990 Randel Shard. First published in The Minnesota Daily on Sept 27, 1990.