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Kirby: Deciphering America's bipolar position on guns

Published January 24, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Last week, a friend who teaches school in southern Utah confided to me that a student had brought a gun to school that morning.

It was a BB gun, but he said it looked like a genuine Glock. Kid had it tucked banger-style in his waistband. Exactly why he did this is unknown, probably to everyone including himself. He's a kid.

My exasperated friend referred to him as "a stupid kid," which is redundant. I know because I've been one. Still am, according to my wife (boss, parents, relatives and various #@*& government agencies).

If this makes me sound immature, I don't care. My entire life I have believed what writer James Napoli says: "Maturity is a word that attempts to make boring sound like a good thing."

Growing up I had two implacable enemies: authority and boredom. I hated both of them in all their forms — school, church, work, you, etc.

Today I understand that these things are necessary evils in my life, either because I need them or because I can't make them go away. More important, I recognize that I live in a different time.

In 1971, a shop teacher at Skyline High School discovered 25 feet of dynamite fuse in my locker. Know what happened? Nothing. He was more upset about the roach clip.

For the record, I never seriously considered blowing up the school. Even then I was smart enough to understand that jail was the most boring thing outside church.

Also I wouldn't have wanted to hurt Mrs. Walker, a total babe of a teacher on whom I had a highly inappropriate (but therapeutic) crush. Certain medications hadn't been invented yet, you see.

If I were an actual kid today (rather than just the emotional one you're reading right now), half an inch of dynamite fuse in my locker would prompt call-outs of the police and fire departments, endless court-ordered psychoanalysis and probably forced medication.

Like I said, different times. But it's precisely this difference that makes today's fury over gun control perplexing to me.

Forty years ago, dynamite fuse in a school locker was no big deal. Neither were practice mortar rounds, sabers, crossbows, fireworks, percussion caps and spear guns, all of which I had and sometimes brought to school.

But then people weren't massacring each other wholesale back then. Also, sexual fantasies about hot schoolteachers weren't such a big deal, either. Nope, mindless fear back then was basically limited to weed.

Today, people think it's OK to freak because a kid brings a BB gun to school. It seems perfectly natural to them that a zero-tolerance policy needs to be in place when it comes to even imaginary guns.

Conversely, when a slightly older idiot wears an assault rifle into a department store, others tell us with a straight face not to worry because he's only exercising his Second Amendment rights while he shops.

I have no idea what the answer is to America's bipolar position on guns. All I know is that I used to be the crazy one.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.