Monday, May 6, 2013

A Shot In The Dark

Living here in Kentucky, I found the tragic and awful story of Caroline Sparks, the two-year old Burkesville girl who was shot and killed by her five-year old brother Kristian, to be especially disturbing.  I grew up in small-town North Carolina and while nobody in my family had guns, I grew up with kids whose families did, and the people of Burkesville feel like they've been singled out as what's wrong in America, like they're awful parents who are being trashed nationally for the crime of living in rural Kentucky.  Trip Gabriel's story in the NY Times features this paragraph:

“I think it’s nobody else’s business but our town’s,” said a woman leaving a store, who like many people here declined to be interviewed. A woman who answered the phone at the office of John A. Phelps Jr., the chief executive of Cumberland County, whose seat is Burkesville, said, “No, I’m sorry — no more statements,” and hung up.

Nobody else's business but our town's.  Having grown up in and around towns like Burkesville, I've seen my share of tragedies.  The problem is when something like this happens, and happens because a rifle specifically manufactured and marketed to parents to be a "child's first firearm" was in the house, you don't get to make that claim that it's not anyone else's business.

The Crickett rifle fired in the fatal shooting is all of our business, all of America's.  We have to ask ourselves if rural culture in the US is being used as a convenient excuse to avoid the responsibility of the gun culture marketing and selling pink and blue .22 caliber rifles to kids.  That's not the fault of the people of Cumberland County, Kentucky.  That's the fault of the gun manufacturers and their nearly unbeatable lobby creating a situation where it's permissible to make real working firearms for kids who should be playing with squirt guns and aren't old enough to know the difference between the two.

I don't blame the people of Burkesville for being horrified and defensive while burning in the national spotlight, but frankly this should have never happened in the first place.  The NRA exists to sell firearms, and they've gotten so powerful now we have gender-coded rifles for your little hunters.  This was apparently going on without too much issue, either.  The company that sold Crickett Rifles made a pretty penny over the years, because it was a popular product.

The issue of course is why it was popular.  I'm betting it still is, hell the NRA is telling parents for safety they need to keep a gun in your kid's room, because that's where you're going to barricade yourself in when the inevitable jackbooted thugs come for you.  I can't think of an outfit that has successfully leveraged the paranoid style better than the NRA, and in rural America, that means there's no way we're going to make any headway with gun control.  Not unless the culture changes, and that's going to take another generation or two.

It's a shot in the dark at best.

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