Fairy tales

Once upon a time, fairy tales were grim, collected by two brothers named Grimm, and featured grim fantasies.  But we live in a softer age.  We worry about who will use which bathroom rather than having to take a quick squat in the woods while watching out for wolves.

We are still in need of stories, though—stories that are written for their didactic, rather than narrative qualities, since we can no more allow imaginations, especially those of children, to wander free than we can permit them to roam about on their own unsupervised.

Thus we have a pair of new stories written by Amelia Hamilton for the NRA.  She’s come out with two so far, “Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun)” and “Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns),” and a third story involving the Three Little Pigs will be released in May.

In reading these tales, I approach the subject from two perspectives, both as a gun writer and as someone who has studied, taught, and written stories.  In that latter capacity, I find Hamilton’s work to be poorly written, more concerned with teaching of a list of points rather than telling a good story.  The characters are flat, functioning as tools for the author instead of taking on their own lives, but that could be excused due to the nature of the fairy tale.  A more important critique is the lack of any danger for them.  The good people do the right thing without any internal conflict in terms of morality and gun handling, and they never face a moment when death appears to be a likely outcome.

But literary criticism isn’t the concern of people like Dan Gross and Ladd Everitt, directors respectively of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.  Everitt sees a marketing campaign in these stories, and Gross enlarges on this, calling them “a disgusting, morally depraved marketing campaign.”

Gross claims that some fifty children and teenagers are shot every day and that suicide by firearm is a leading cause of death for children over age nine.  These claims don’t hold up well when examined, though.

For one thing, the number of minors shot is less than half the number Gross claims.  And of the twenty shot each day, 84% of those are teens, fifteen to nineteen, of whom many are involved in gangs or other criminal activity.  This does not diminish the outrage that is the wounding or killing of a child, but it shows that the situation is more complex than merely attributing the problem to guns.

On the question of suicide, firearms are certainly one method used by minors.  However, that is not the only way.  And various forms of suffocation are on the rise among teens.  Again, Gross is seizing on bare numbers without considering the complexity of things.

There are bigger problems with the analysis of Gross and Everitt.  To bring back the literary world for a moment, let’s note that stories can’t do everything.  A coherent tale has to have a finite plot that can support many themes, but not an endless number of those.  The same is true about political messages.  Nothing about the benefits of learning the proper handling of guns is mentioned by Gross and Everitt.  Now if they want to make statements about the number of people who are being wounded or killed each day from gunfire, that’s a worthy discussion, but if they wish to criticize a pair of fairy tales, they have to address the purpose of those stories.  Hamilton is clearly showing that guns can be used in hunting and in self-defense.  We could also bring in sport shooting, collecting, activities with family, and so forth.  And a fair analysis of her stories has to include the benefits of owning and using guns if we are going to raise the harms.

A better answer for parents is to spend time with their children, teaching the proper handling of firearms and then to read better literature to them before they go to sleep.  And in any case, we should all avoid going to anti-rights advocates for literary criticism.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.