Americans have a rich but peculiar relationship with guns. Their mystique became the stuff of wild westerns and spurious tales of gutsy gangsters, while in real, more modern life, communities often find themselves wrestling with the darker, tragic ramifications of romancing gun ownership.
Accidental (unintended) shootings kill as many as 1,300 children a year, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Centers of Disease Control and University of Texas. The statistic, which doesn't include the number of adults that are killed or injured by accidental misuse of a gun (or the number of kids treated and released -- 5,700/year), underscores the odd contrast between American's concept of guns and the true impact of their use.
That dichotomy in thinking came home to rest this last week in South Florida when police were forced to issue an alert to residents not to "shoot at Irma." What started as a Facebook posting urging like-minded Floridians to "show Irma we shoot first" quickly became a social media blitz. The poster said he was only joking and never imagined some 5,600 gun-toting people might actually agree to turn up at the social function. But it forced the Pasco County Sheriff's office to publish a graphic, detailed drawing of just what happens when you shoot live ammunition toward the eye of a hurricane: it is projected back out in fury.
— Pasco Sheriff (@PascoSheriff) September 10, 2017
While there is no evidence that anyone was injured by stray bullets, the idea that unhappy residents could demonstrate their resolve by shooting live ammunition into a wind tunnel as it moved across homes will likely leave even more fodder for sociologists who want to understand why guns are such an important symbol of American identity.
And so will last month's remarkable runway fashion show, hosted by none other than the National Rife Association (NRA). On August 25, attendees were treated to an unusual pageant. This time it wasn't the dress that was sparking the attention but the convenience of accessory.
The NRA Carry Guard Expo, held in Wisconsin, sported guns and holsters alike, promoting the idea that as Quartz Magazine quoted, "you can always be fashionably packing."
"This event will equip novices and experts alike with the products, skills, knowledge and mindset necessary to be prepared and respond when a threat arises," announced the NRA on its blog. More than 50 different products from gun and concealed holster manufacturers were on display, promoting the idea that gun-toting fits just about anywhere and any kind of American fashion.
An increasing number of state laws have endorsed that thinking as well. Florida is among the states that regulate concealed weapon permits, but has a "no discretion" clause, which means an agency can't deny an individual's right to conceal a weapon if he/she meets certain criteria. Another 12 states don't require individuals to obtain a permit in order to conceal a weapon.
One writer from ConcealedCarry.com noted astutely that all of the models carried dummy guns and wondered why, if the NRA was promoting a fashion show that encouraged the idea that it was safe to concealed weapons, all of the the models were forced to carry "a blue hunk of plastic" rather than the real thing.
"The guns in the showroom have all been checked and tagged as safe and inert. Not sure why those can't be on the runway of the fashion show," he pondered.
At the end of the catwalk demonstration, guests had the opportunity to vote on the top three concealed weapon items. The NRA hasn't released the results (or, as far as I could find, how many people actually attended the event), but this week's blog does have a new product to entice gun lovers: a shot glass sporting its very own .308 caliber bullet wedged in its side.
"The NRA Point-Of-Impact Shot Glass is the perfect item for any firearm enthusiast," boasts the NRA.
Gun enthusiasts can now hide the gun and sport the bullet as they toast the technology that affords both.
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.