My younger son and his friends love to play with Airsoft guns. We’d prefer he indulge in his less-violent interests, but my wife and I have come to realize that capricious household bans often backfire and those toys aren’t nearly as dangerous as the BB guns of our youth.
For the uninitiated, Airsoft guns, which may or may not be smaller-sized replicas of the real thing, are generally plastic contraptions that fire various caliber plastic BBs at very low velocities.
If the boys wear sweatshirts and the masks the company sells, they can engage in a far cleaner version of paintball without fear of injury or collateral damage.
So as you might imagine, with some pre-Christmas money burning a hole clean through his right hand pocket, my son and I found ourselves rummaging through Airsoft’s latest offerings at Dick’s Sporting Goods in the Commons.
The thing is, these devices define the word “fragile” because if you so much as look at them wrong, they’ll break. Thus, two short days later, we found ourselves back at Dick’s trying to make an exchange. But despite braving that final desperate Christmas consumer dash, the salesperson explained they’d removed real and toy guns from the shelves in deference to the Sandy Hook shooting victims.
The best they could do was refund our money, and sure enough, when we got home, Patch had already posted Dick’s national statement:
“We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, CT, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and to the entire community.
Out of respect for the victims and their families, during this time of national mourning we have removed all guns from sale and from display in our store nearest to Newtown and suspended the sale of modern sporting rifles in all of our stores chainwide.
We continue to extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by this terrible tragedy.”
Now, I realize it’s hard to consider the possibility that you can actually do less than nothing, but Dick’s Sporting Goods just proved you can. Please note they didn’t issue a declaration proclaiming they wouldn’t sell ‘em at all, they simply said they’d “suspended” sales for now.
C’mon! This isn’t “respect,” it’s the worst kind of corporate pandering, and it may well redefine the phrase “meaningless symbolic gesture.”
What’s even worse is, though I’m not a big fan of Airsoft products, how is temporarily banning toy gun sales going to make those mourning parents feel any better? And just how is this measure supposed to prevent the next school shooting ?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the inconvenience that ticked me off — we simply went to Sports Authority — it’s adults who so readily co-opt a first grader’s thought process that bothers me.
This whole thing brings me back to the very first guest view I wrote for the Kane County Chronicle. Though it wasn’t nearly as egregious an example, to this day, whenever I see those annual white crosses on the St. Peter Church front lawn, I can’t help but wonder what might be accomplished if all that energy went into improving the lot of the women who tend to have abortions.
The problem is, we who so cheerfully support this sound bite culture are suckers for this kind of non-action action because we’re basically lazy. We’ll light a candle, we’ll offer plenty of lip service, and we’ll insist that someone else do something about it.
But real change requires a real commitment.
The reason these pointless endeavors are even worse than doing nothing is they give us just enough mental ammunition to assuage our collective consciences long enough to forget about our responsibility to each other. Americans have fallen in love with the illusion of being proactive.
The sad truth is, in the end, all this publicity-seeking symbolic inaction really does is demean and diminish the hard work of those who are wise enough to understand that desperately needed cultural shifts can only comes from a comprehensive, persistent and long-term effort.
But it’ll never happen as long as we’re willing to say, “Hey! We don’t need to encourage a reasonable gun-control debate or address the lack of treatment options for the mentally or emotionally ill ... because Dick’s temporarily banned toy guns."