I don’t know why anyone would want to take candy from a baby, but apparently it is easy. Like a walk in the park. Like riding a bike. Like falling off a log.
Like shooting fish in a barrel.
I remember once watching an episode of MythBusters on TV where they explored the metaphorical concept of shooting fish in a barrel. They set out to prove that it is indeed easy to do despite the fact that healthy, well-adjusted people don’t go around shooting fish in containers.
Firing a small assault rifle into an empty barrel of water and measuring the results, they concluded that the shock wave of a high velocity bullet hitting the water was in of itself enough to send any helpless fish belly up.
But this scientific answer did not quite capture the essence of the barrel simile. So they mounted an M134 gatling gun on top of a car and pummeled an oil can filled with water and one three-foot iced sea bass purchased at a local fish market.
There was little left of the riddled steel drum and nothing of the fish. They proved their point.
When I was a kid of eleven or twelve my friend Jim invited me to go pheasant hunting with his dad. His grandparents had a farm located somewhere in rural Illinois. They grew corn, and in the late fall, after the corn was harvested and the crunchy brown stalks had been felled and cut back, pheasants often roosted in the dense rows.
Pheasant hunting was not something I had ever experienced before, so I was eager to go.
We arrived late in the evening and slept on the living room floor in sleeping bags. In the early morning, before daylight could naturally wake me from the dark, we rose, ate breakfast, and put on warm clothes.
The corn field was vast in front of us. Neat rows had been close cropped to the ground, but other wider rows of dense stalks lay bent and crippled on the hard ground. Our job was to walk on either side of the rugged brush down its length while Jim’s dog, who had licked my face in the car all the way from Chicago, circled and bounced among the stalks rooting out unsuspecting pheasants.
Jim’s dad walked beside us carrying a loaded shotgun.
If we rousted any pheasants, I am not clear. I was too fixated on the shotgun. I had never seen a gun before. Or for that matter, a pheasant.
But here is what I do remember. Toward the end of the frosty morning as the sun lifted sharp in the sky and the better hidden pheasants clucked a sigh of relief, Jim’s dad let me shoot the gun.
He set a soup can atop a fence post twenty yards away, and slowly walked back to where Jim and I were standing, cradling the long barreled shotgun in his arms away from us. He talked to us earnestly about gun safety, about grip, about stance, about sighting the bead, about deactivating the safety and touching the trigger, about recoil. He put a shell deliberately in the chamber and kathunked it home ready to fire. The sound was metallic and precise and satisfying.
Then he gave me the gun. It felt cold and heavy in my hands, but oddly natural. Especially when I placed the stock squarely in the flesh of my shoulder and leveled the barrel securely with my outstretched hand. I sighted the tiny can and released the safety. And with my forefinger gently touching the curved trigger, I squeezed. Just like in the movies.
The gun exploded violently and pushed hard against my frame. But I didn’t fall. I didn’t wince. I didn’t pee in my pants. I remained calm and focused, looking out to the fence post where the tin can once rested.
After handing the shotgun respectfully back to Jim’s dad, I ran to examine my kill. I found the can yards away from the fence post and held it up to the sunlight. It was creased and riddled with holes that sparkled against the blue sky.
A pheasant wouldn’t stand a chance. Neither would a fish. Neither would a human.
And it was so easy a child could do it.
In a simpler time I was once asked my position on guns. I sardonically replied that I would rather be behind the barrel than in front of it.
Further proof that I am smart, but not intelligent.
Still, it seems to me that obtaining a gun shouldn’t be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
Or humans in a grocery store.
Or a spa. Or a nightclub. Or a movie theater. Or a school. Or a church. Or a synagogue. Or a music festival. Or a mall. Or a factory. Or a bowling alley. Or anywhere.
And coming up with some reasonable restrictions, even small, shouldn’t be that hard.
We deserve to swim free.