Puns Not Guns
This post is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It’s a controversial topic, but since it’s Smokey Robinson’s birthday in two weeks, it’s Black History month and Black Americans* die from guns almost twice as much as White Americans, gun deaths involve children way more than they should, and in light of a recent segment on 20/20 (see below), I felt compelled to write. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, nor have I exhausted the research on this topic. These are just my thoughts. -Sarah
I remember when I fell in love with puns. I don’t remember the date, what I was wearing, or who else was in the room, but I remember the exact moment.
It was a Sesame Street episode (of course): Sesame Street, Hee Haw, and Disney movies filled my childhood with puns, clever wordplay, and (clean) grown-up humor. I still watch Disney movies because of the adult humor. But this Sesame Street episode must have aired when I was really young, and when I got the joke, I felt really smart.
Smokey Robinson was the musical guest and he sang his/The Miracles’ famous song, “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” only it was “U Really Got a Hold on Me,” and this was the ’80s, well before text-speak. You’d have to watch the segment to get it.
I know people have varied feelings about puns, and I can appreciate that. In fact, my brother-in-law, who also grew up in the ’80s (we were born the same year), does not share my love of puns. But, aside from inducing groans and eye rolls, puns haven’t done him any harm, and he’s told me he’s enjoyed a pun or two, even some of mine.
I remember the first time I held a gun. I don’t remember what I was wearing, or the date, but I do remember who else was in the room. I remember the exact moment.
It was a police academy training simulation (of course). As a complaint investigator, police filled my early adulthood with guns, wordy complaints, and grown-up issues. I still believe in the overall good of law enforcement, see the necessary evil of armed guards. But this moment happened when I was still a young adult, and when I held that gun, I felt really anxious.
It was a real gun–not loaded–hooked up to a simulator, and the weight of it surprised me, which, from my memory, the simulation facilitator told us was an accurate heft. I don’t recall a recoil, but I do remember the simulated scenarios (real people projected on a screen that the facilitator could manipulate depending on our reaction). I remember drawing that gun and firing, because of what I’d been instructed, because it was kill or be killed in the scenario, because it was just a simulator after all.
I didn’t grow up in a house with guns, although I do have an uncle who hunts and know plenty of people in the Midwest do, too. I can tell you when gun deer hunting season is in Wisconsin (the weekend before Thanksgiving to the weekend after Thanksgiving) because the two days before Thanksgiving break were often student-light at school. But, despite growing up in a state of hunters and having an uncle who hunted, I never saw a real gun (aside from holstered to a cop’s utility belt or in an officer’s hands) until I that first time I held one. I also never feared guns, largely because until a few years ago, Wisconsin did not allow concealed carry of weapons, which is something I appreciated about my home state.
I know people have varied feelings about guns, and I try to appreciate that. Diane Sawyer, David Muir, and the people at 20/20 opened a conversation recently about children and guns. They show various sides of the issue, cover many of the protestations of people on both sides of the conversation. You can find the link to first part of the multi-part story here.
In the spring of my junior year in high school, we heard about a school shooting–the “first” school shooting–in Littleton, Colorado.
That was 15 years ago.
In the 15 years since Columbine, we’ve had roughly 180 deaths in the U.S. from school shootings alone. Not people wounded, deaths. Not just the massacres you heard about, although those numbers are in there, and not the mass workplace and movie theater shootings, either. Just school shootings; mostly by kids against other kids. In January of this year alone we have had twelve school shootings in the United States, but you probably didn’t hear about them because they didn’t involve a lot of people and resulted in only two deaths total.
Two deaths is nothing when you look at almost 12,000.
One death is everything when it’s someone you love. When it’s your child.
You can tell me that guns make you feel safe. That you keep them because someday it might be kill or be killed. That our forefathers wanted us to have guns.*** That we should bring more guns into schools, that arming teachers is the answer.**** That it’s okay because they’re locked up/unloaded/you don’t have small children in the house. That your kid would never disobey your directives about guns. You can tell me that you just like hunting. You can tell me all of that, and I’ll want to believe you.
But, I still don’t understand.
Watch that 20/20 story again. Or maybe you’ll have to watch this segment to get it–quite chilling when it reaches over 1,500 gun deaths by the end of February last year and over 50,000 stolen years. Through February.
I can point to all the arguments, I can tell you the things you’ve already heard, but you likely won’t change your mind, just like I will never, ever understand what a high-powered (semi) automatic assault rifle or handgun could be used for, other than killing people. Deer don’t need to be shot multiple times in rapid-fire succession, if you’re a good hunter, and spraying the air with bullets is hardly sporting.
Here’s what I will say that I think we can agree on:
No one ever died from playing with puns. Let your children be exposed to wordplay. Let them be more clever than cock[ed]sure**, more adept at zingers than slinging bullets. You don’t have to worry about locking up books and jokes, about making sure your limericks are unloaded.
*Smokey Robinson was featured on Def Poetry explaining why he prefers the term Black American, so in deference** to him, I’ve used that term as well.
**See what I did there?
***Nevermind that our forefathers were by today’s standards racist, sexist, and living in a frontier where dueling was an acceptable form of conflict resolution. If our forefathers had imagined a world in which guns were more accurate and more deadly (and less necessary), a country in which
there wasn’t a constant threat from the Native Americans they weren’t constantly threatening the Native Americans, they probably would have reconsidered the Second Amendment.
****This is the strangest answer in my opinion. If 180 people died from bear attacks in schools, we wouldn’t suggest that the answer was lack of proper training around bears or improper use of bears and we definitely wouldn’t even think of saying that the answer is putting more bears in schools. Why do we even consider that when it comes to guns? I realize guns and bears are not the same thing. You can control a gun. You can’t control a bear. The math is: no guns = no gun deaths.