What this country needs is more groups like Gun Owners of America. Instead of going quiet and soppy when their cause hits a difficulty, they get more doolally than ever, keeping everyone happy.
For example, this week in Arizona a nine-year-old girl lost control of the Uzi sub-machine gun she was being taught to fire, and shot dead her instructor. But instead of looking sheepish, Gun Owners executive Larry Pratt insisted the shooting range where it happened should carry on instructing nine-year-olds because “they do get sternly lectured on how to use sub-machine guns safely”.
Not too sternly, I hope, because you can take discipline too far. In any case, who could possibly have predicted a freak accident like that, just because a small child has fun with a repeat-action 16-bullets-a-second machine gun? You can’t wrap them in cotton wool, can you?
If anything it goes to show that there are too many restrictions on guns, because if she’d been taught to use the thing properly when she was five this would never have happened.
The case they usually make when a citizen goes berserk in a shopping centre with a rifle is that this proves we need more guns, to protect ourselves against lunatics with guns. And as children are most vulnerable of all, they must need arming more than anyone. The gun lobby must think the safest place in the world for children is Somalia, where sensible warlords ensure that every child is securely armed so that nothing nasty can happen at all.
When Larry Pratt or members of the National Rifle Association see footage of wars in Rwanda or the Congo they must think, “Look at the little cherubs, sweetly huddled together on the back of those trucks with a Kalashnikov each. I wish I could afford to send my kids to a well-resourced learning environment like that. The local state school is so short of funds that in some classes they have to share one revolver between two.”
Somehow this is mainstream thinking in America. I imagine kids are given detention for bringing knives into class because, “What good’s a knife? You need at least a Colt semi-automatic handgun, you idiot!”
So the responsible parent doesn’t wait until the child is nine, starting them much earlier with a My Little Rocket Launcher, so that by the time they’re eight they can be given a special treat of a weekend training with Isis in Iraq.
I expect even the stories these people read to toddlers go, “Mr Tickly was feeling even more tickly than normal as he left Tickle Cottage. ‘Here’s Mister Frowny. I know how to cheer him up,’ he thought, and stretched out his long arms until, tickle tickle tickle, he tickled Mr Frowny all up his arms and even on his feet. So Mr Frowny pulled out his Glock 9x19 calibre pistol and shot Mr Tickle four times through the front of his head, and Mister Tickle never tickled anyone else again, as his long arms were submerged beneath a gigantic pool of blood.” Then Daddy says, “Sweet dreams, honeypie,” and no child has ever felt safer.
The shooting range where the tragedy took place was called Bullets and Burgers, because too often when you take kids out for a burger there seems to be something missing, and then you realise what it is – bullets.
However awkward its case may appear, the gun lobby doesn’t flinch for a moment. Larry Pratt informed us that concern over guns is hysterical, because “more people get killed by cars than by guns”.
And he has a point, in which case we should encourage our children to use anything that kills fewer people than cars. They can play with a rattlesnake in the morning, splash about in concentrated acid in the afternoon, play “baths and toasters” in the evening, and only when the casualties overtake deaths on the roads would we need to make a fuss.
Pratt then explained that “16 times a day more defensive gun uses occur than any kind of death resulting from a firearm”. If I understand his argument, this means only one time in 16 that someone fires a gun does anyone get killed. I don’t want to be picky, but are those good odds? If a kettle, say, boasted: “Boil away at your leisure, secure in the knowledge that each time you have only a one in 16 chance of dying, meaning on average you’ll enjoy eight or nine delicious cups of tea or coffee before you’re killed, unless you’re reasonably unlucky”, it might not become the most popular kitchen appliance.
But not all the Gun Owners of America’s statements need clearing up as much as this. Because it’s true that some American citizens are in need of protection from deadly lunatics, which is why the town of Ferguson has been in uproar at the gunning down of a black unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by a police officer.
Presumably, what Mr Pratt and the GOA are calling for is the arming of black teenagers so they can defend themselves against the police, which is a revolutionary turn few would have predicted from the gun lobby or the Bullets and Burgers franchise.
Either way, the people behind this line of thought exert such power over the most powerful government in the world that no one dares upset them. Sweet dreams.