Monday, January 3, 2011

The Fearmonger

During this last Christmas season, I took a few moments to try out a local library's touch-screen table.  Next to that table was a book called "The Rifle", by Gary Paulsen--and at the end of the book's blurb was a claim that cried out to be challenged:
With deadly accuracy, Gary Paulsen takes aim at the notion that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people".
So, what does Paulsen do to to take aim at this notion?  He first describes the creation of a "sweet" flintlock that is used in the Revolutionary War; he then creates an improbable series of events, and describes those events to the tiniest detail--up to, and including, how a charge of gunpowder could be sealed in a gun so that moisture won't cause it to cake while sitting in an attic for 227 years; how a candle can melt the grease that sealed the hole that leads to the charge; and how a tiny spark from the fireplace makes its way into that hole, sets of the charge, and kills Richard, a nice young man who lives next door.

After the gun goes off, and is thrown in a river, it's fished out by a person who--gasp!--is interested in black powder gun competition.  It's now only a matter of time before that gun kills another person!  Never mind that the need to keep a black-powder rifle ready at all times is long past, and modern black powder safety rules take that into account.

Along the way, he takes a couple of pot-shots at America, and he does his darnedest to illustrate how pretty much anyone interested in guns is a liar, a thief, and a cheat, and is distrustful of government to boot.  It isn't enough that we fear the rifle--we need to loath anyone who has any interest in guns.

Even this isn't enough:  almost everyone associated with this rifle seems to die grisly deaths.  After its service in the Revolutionary War, he then locks it up in the attic--and thereby refuses to show how such a device could feed a family during hard times, or to celebrate in times of happy competition.  Every step of the way, Paulsen is determined to show that this rifle only kills.

Several years ago, I read from a book that catalogued things we shoud be afraid of.  Among them--a ball point pen!  Why a pen?  Because someone who was riding a motorcycle got into a crash, and he would have walked away without a scratch...except that he had a ball point pen in the front pocket of his shirt, and that pen pierced him to the heart, and he died.  Of course, the chances of anyone dying from a ball point pen--even one in an upper front pocket of a coat, or a shirt, or a jacket--are very small.  When discussing such a death, it's more proper to say it's a "freak accident", than it is to say we should only keep pens in our pants pockets--and even then, be careful to keep it from our major arteries.

By producing a series of improbable events to make his point--events described with a God-like knowledge of the rifle, for given the history of the rifle described, only God could have known those events--he expects us to believe that guns are just waiting to kill us, even though the event he ultimately describes is just as likely to kill an individual as a ball point pen.

Thus, while it's true that Gary Paulsen takes deadly aim, his "gun" backfires.   All he does is try to gin up fear and loathing--Paulsen is nothing more than a fearmonger.  Perhaps the most sickening aspect of this book is that it's especially targeted to convince young people that they need to fear guns, and to loath anyone who has an interest in such devices.

As such, I would encourage everyone to read this book.  It's a short read, and it's a good illustration of how gun-grabbers view those of us who value our rights.  Paulsen also has an interesting narration of how a gun was made during Revolutionary times--which makes it a good read, even despite the anti-gun drivel.

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