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Great Guns

by Stephen Lautens


February 8, 2002

We're having a little gun control issue at our house.

My friend Rob and I exchange gifts every Christmas and birthday. It's always goofy boy stuff, like booze miniatures, lighters, and cheap action figures. You know, the kind of stuff a couple of guys in their 40s really need and no one else will give you.

Rob can also always be counted on to pull a couple of toy guns from the dollar store out of his loot bag. They bang, pop, shoot sparks, or otherwise fire projectiles that my mother would sternly caution could put an eye out. For the rest of the evening the front room will be filled with suction cup darts, plastic disks, flying saucers, ping pong balls and other things that if left under the couch will immediately destroy an unsuspecting two-hundred dollar vacuum cleaner.

Once the evening is over, all the toy guns are gathered up and put in a box with all the rest of them from parties past. After a few years, I've amassed a plastic armory that would put some small nations to shame.

The problem is, now I don't know how to get rid of them. I suppose I could just throw them in the garbage, and I can already hear the collective tongues clucking that these faux weapons should be melted down into the proverbial plastic plough shares.

But I grew up in the age when every kid had a brace of cowboy cap guns. Any male my age will instantly recognize the famous "Johnny Seven" as the dream present. It fired everything from red anti-tank missiles to green anti-sister grenades. Any kid who had one was instantly the envy of the neighbourhood. I looked on eBay today and saw they're still around from the 60s, except they're now collectors' items and sell for over $600.

Forget RRSP season - I should have sunk all my money into them.

I suppose those were very different times. Even though the Vietnam War was on TV every night the streets seemed safer. It was before drive-by shootings, car jackings and real gun battles with the police became commonplace. You could take your cap gun to play in the park with your friends and you weren't automatically explaining yourself to a SWAT team.

We played "cops and robbers" instead of "police review board, victim and grief counsellor".

I'm not sure we grew up any the worse for it either.

But like I said, we now live in very different times. Even Arnold Schwartzenegger has stopped using guns. In his new movie, Collateral Damage, he apparently doesn't fire a shot. After blasting his way through a dozen films, he now only has his fists, an axe and a few hundred kilos of explosives to make his point. It's a kinder, gentler way for an action hero to rid the world of bad guys.

I have friends who won't allow their kids to play with toy guns. I can't say that I blame them, except they still seem to be raising little hellions quite content to enthusiastically karate chop or drop kick their friends, imitating their favourite wrestler or enraged hockey parent.

All things being equal, I think I'd prefer they indulge in a little pretend violence at a distance followed by an Academy Award-winning death scene.

Even so, it may be time to impose an arms embargo on Rob and hang up my cap guns for good.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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