As a kid growing up on the Northside of Chicago, there was no shortage of things to do to entertain ourselves. Picking through a dumpster for materials to build a clubhouse would take days.
As a pre-teen in the city, there were always plenty of kids in the neighborhood to recruit for games and activities. We’d do all kinds of stuff that sometimes involved riding our bicycles around the block like we were the Rebel Alliance looking for Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor, or the cast of the T.V. show “Chips” out on our pretend motorcycles looking for fake crimes to fight. There were movie theaters, community centers, arcades, bowling allies, parks– seemingly endless recreation. The fruits of American life in the city were always there for the sharing. A little initiative, a little curiosity, a little regard for safety and some healthy imagination were the only tools for entertainment we ever needed. Even when we would find ourselves giggling to each other gathered around an aged and waterlogged issue of Playboy magazine– we were top scientists in our respective fields discovering the female human anatomy as part of a totally legitimate scientific research team.
But we also used to play Good guys/Bag guys with our plastic toy guns that, at the time, before regulations appropriately targeted the appearance of toy guns, they often looked like the real deal. Black, hollowed out barrels with fake chrome and nickel-plated handles. I can’t imagine all the neighborhood freakouts we may have caused jumping out of bushes to unload our fake clips on each other. But to us, it was more like a hybrid of tag and hide & seek.
This is the realm of children, where imagination rules, but the NRA and Wayne LaPierre, and their various subsidiaries, politicians and pundits are determined to get to the bottom of America’s mass-shooting epidemic by waiting for a study that blames video games for violent behavior and stalls action on the federal level to regulate the sale and purchase of firearms. In other words, until the day when guns are regulated under the Constitution as regulated interstate commerce, we’re just waiting around for the next mass-shooting to remind us of the failures of government and private industry to remedy, or limit, senseless death in our cities.
So, in the meantime, gun rights organizations and manufacturers are quietly targeting children and women for recruitment into the gun-toting cult of fear. In a piece by Tim Dickinson, in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, titled, “The Gun Industry’s Deadly Addiction,” he details the gun manufacturing industry’s use of fear of a Black President as a means to boost sales to record highs, and the ways in which they direct-market to women, teens, and children as young a six years old. With events like “National Bring Your Daughter To The Shooting Range Day,” gun manufacturers– faced with a shortage of aging white men to scare up to buy their products and the possibility that the next person to occupy the White House will not be a black man– have been luring children to gun ownership by creating shooting range games that recreate the Zombie Apocalypse, with models that spew blood, “zombie-themed hunts,” life-sized zombie mannequins, and “Zombie MAX” ammo(you know, for kids?) are all part of a disturbing trend in gun marketing that seems to have given up on the hunting angle and have gone right for the windowless vans and candy-colored firearms. In sales, this is what is called “bottom-feeding” off of misery and with every mass-shooting, the NRA and the gun industry is capitalizing.
And gun dealers are now beginning to rebrand themselves as “part of the entertainment industry,” Dickinson more appropriately calls it, “the militarization of the marketplace,” and with the prepping for customers as young as six years old how can anyone argue?
Even owning a gun for hunting seems like so last year, with “hunting guns accounting for less than a quarter of the market.” But even hunters– the living embodiment of a once rational argument for gun ownership– seem to be going off the deep end– desperately warning of diseased and parasitic populations of deer overrunning humanity with only the hunter to save the population and food supply from… zombie deer?
It’s amazing, though, how the gun manufacturing industry can find all sorts of funding for studies that improve their marketing strategies expanding to women and children, or studies that put the blame for mass-shootings on violent music and video games, but they can never seem to find the funding for anything that actually prevents gun violence, like, say, a reduction in the number of guns in America?
Eventually, most of us grew out of our Good guys/Bad guys games. Gun manufacturers and the NRA, on the other hand, are literally playing childish games with real lives, the lives of children, just to protect and expand their profits. Profits that are based upon the fear and misery of the American market they created. It would be intellectual dishonesty to contend that the gun debate in America has everything to do with preserving the 2nd Amendment. This is about greed and profit and it’s time to grow up.