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Saturday, October 21, 2017

I’m always tempted to warn these jokers that I’ve forwarded their messages to the Obama White House for inclusion on Big Brother’s Hellfire drone strike list, but I’m afraid most wouldn’t get the joke. Tanks, helicopter gunships and drones have pretty much put an end to the adolescent fantasy of plucky survivalists taking on the U.S. Marines. Everywhere except in movies and at certain kinds of gun shows, that is.

Then there are the Lethal Weapon/Die Hard revenge comedies I’m partial to myself: the Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis vehicles where a wisecracking hero and his plucky sidekick shoot their way through legions of wicked, heavily armed villains with universally poor marksmanship.

Let’s put it this way: Ever seen a headline like this? “LAPD Detective Kills 17 Gangsters in Nightclub Shootout” (Lethal Weapon) Or this? “Vacationing Cop Foils Xmas Plot; 34 Terrorists Slain.” (Die Hard)

Of course not. Because the working part of your brain understands that these films bear approximately the same relationship to reality as a Roadrunner cartoon.

Sometimes I think it’s mainly about the wisecracks.

“Go ahead, make my day.” The average dweeb wishes he could say something so clever to a rude supermarket bag boy, much less to a lone demento with a .357 mag.

However, deep in many of our lizard brains the Dirty Harry fantasy lurks nevertheless. NRA president Wayne LaPierre invoked it during his notorious Newtown press conference. You know, the bit about a good guy with a gun shooting it out with a bad guy with a gun—inside a first-grade classroom.

That’s why the single most useful piece of journalism since Newtown may be Amanda Ripley’s “Your Brain in a Shootout: Guns, Fear and Flawed Instincts.” Writing for Time, Ripley interviewed highly trained, experienced cops and soldiers who talked to her bluntly about the crazy, jagged chaos of armed combat.

“[R]esearch on actual gunfights,” she writes “the kind that happen not in a politician’s head but in fluorescent-lit stairwells and strip-mall restaurants around America, reveals [that]…Winning a gunfight without shooting innocent people typically requires realistic, expensive training and a special kind of person.”

And normally not the kind of person, oddly enough, that makes an excellent kindergarten teacher.

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