Leaving the house one day, I hear a voice accosting me from mid-air. It’s the neighbor boy, straddling a bough midway up the tree near our property line.
An intense kid, by turns glumly uncommunicative, then voluble, sometimes almost manic, he’s obsessed with guns, and occasionally regales me with exhaustive plot summaries of bullet-splattered action movies he’s seen. His enthusiasm for a film correlates tightly to body count. But he’s a purist: deaths inflicted by anything other than bullets are of virtually no interest. Thus, the martial-arts tour de force Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon rated a yawn because, although it includes at least six killings (one of which involves a bandit skewered on a spear, which is then yanked out of his heart, dispatching him with suitably melodramatic messiness), the movie is…gunless.
The kid’s matter-of-fact, unreflective rhapsodies about onscreen bloodbaths always leave me at a loss for words. On occasion, I’ve asked him what he thinks his monomaniacal fixation on guns means. Unsurprisingly for a grade-school kid, he just shrugs and smiles a secretive smile, the universal sign for “whatever.”
Again, the voice in the sky calls out. I look up. He’s aiming a toy gun at me. Don’t ever do that, I growl, nonplussed. He stares me dead in the eye, unblinking. Bang, he says. Bang bang. You’re dead.
* [[Author’s Note: As one commenter pointed out, Loughner didn’t fail a background check because he was never legally declared insane. My point stands that forces categorically opposed to gun regulation consistently strive to stymie legislators’ attempts at mandating stringent background checks. That said, I’m grateful for the fact-checking.]]