A Farewell to Arms? Fat Chance

A Canadian is sort of like an American, but without the gun

Pierre Trudeau

There is a huge, can’t-miss sign that looms over the leafy, luxuriant lawns that surround the headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Virginia in the United States of America. 

The sign, next to a statue of a grinning, bare-chested  Charlton Heston brandishing an assault weapon, is a warning: “Trespassers will be shot.”

There is a postscript in smaller lettering: “Survivors will be shot again.” 

The NRA is a vastly influential institution in the US that exists to make sure that the American powers-that-be do not infringe the constitutional rights of ordinary Americans, specifically the right of all red-blooded Americans to have as many guns as they might want.

One shoe-bomb which failed to detonate was all it took to compel all airline passengers nowadays to take off their shoes for a check. But an average of 310 people getting shot every day in the US does not seem to have sufficiently moved anyone to consider changing US gun laws. 

If guns were outlawed, the thinking went, then only the outlaws would have them and that was unthinkable. And the body saw no irony in the fact that it was precisely the case in most other countries where school shootings were unimaginable. 

The President of the NRA was a cigar-puffing patriot who loved the smell of napalm in the morning and believed deeply in Mom, apple pie and the flag provided it did not inhibit the right of people to own as many guns as they could shoot. 

His secretary liked to tell visiting journalists that his favourite film was Snow White. Indeed, his room had a poster that paraphrased the very film: “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s hand grenades we throw.”

His philosophy was simple and he liked to boast that it could be traced all the way back to Thomas Jefferson: those who beat swords out of ploughshares were likely to get shot by those who didn’t.

It might have been the late John Lennon who best encapsulated the absurdity of the American passion for firearms. 

While recording the White Albumin 1968, Lennon noticed a magazine in the studio whose headline screamed: “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” 

A warm gun is a gun that has recently been fired and the writer was trying to equate that warmth with happiness. “I thought it was such an insane, fantastic thing to say,” Lennon would tell reporters years later in explaining how he came up with the superb track in the first place. 

Incidentally, the magazine was called American Rifleman which is an NRA publication. So you could even say the body influenced some of the best music of the 1960s. 

It does not, however,  render Mr Lennon’s death – by gunshot wound – any less insane. 

And talking of guns,  a car dealership in Alabama is giving away Bibles, flags and guns for a Fourth of July special in the name of patriotism. 

From now until July 31, Chatom Ford will offer customers a Bible, an American flag and a gift certificate for a 12-gauge shotgun when they purchase any new or used vehicle. 

In a promotional video titled “God, Guns and Freedom,” manager Koby Palmer cocks a shotgun in front of a red truck with an American flag draped across the back.

And what do you think the reaction has been like? 

Hostile? Critical? Any suggestion that Mr Ford might be insane?  

Nope. The cars are being sold out amid universal acclaim.