Best selling novelist Stephen King has decided to weigh in on gun control in a new essay entitled “Guns.” Apparently, the author thinks he can make a persuasive case for stronger gun control measures, as if he has some sort of unique talent for creating graphic, viscerally haunting depictions of violence? Well okay then, diva. Give it your best shot:
One only wishes [NRA Executive Vice President and CEO] Wayne LaPierre and his NRA board of directors could be drafted to some of these [school shooting] scenes, where they would be required to put on booties and rubber gloves and help clean up the blood, the brains, and the chunks of intestine still containing the poor wads of half-digested food that were some innocent bystander’s last meal.
King, a gun-owning Democrat, penned the essay in response to gun activists’ claims that violent incidents such as the Sandy Hook massacre are caused by violence in the media and video games.
[Gun advocates] throw popular culture into the debate in the hopes that it’ll be distracting chum to piranhas hungry for scapegoats but reluctant to fight difficult battles to make America safer.
As he discusses in the new essay, King himself came under fire in the 1990’s after a series of separate incidents in which shooters entered their high schools with guns, held students and teachers hostage, and in some cases killed them. The shooters were later found to be in possession of Rage, one of King’s early works which revolved around a disgruntled high school student who takes his classmates hostage at gun point.
The incident provides an interesting point of comparison: King had just as much of an interest in his defending his First Amendment rights in the wake of these shootings as the NRA now has in defending the Second Amendment. If King had acted like NRA when the Rage controversy was swirling, he would have launched an aggressive campaign to convince Americans that the government was trying to take away all of their First Amendment rights. Any legislation proposing to limit the distribution of graphically violent literature to minors with a history of mentally illness, for instance, would have been labeled a fascist plot to steal our Constitutional rights. Only people kill people. There are no other premeditating factors that we should even consider, so let’s dig in our heels and refuse to have any kind of nuanced discussion about this.
But Stephen King is not the NRA, so that’s not what he did.
While he refused to apologize for Rage because he felt it offered an important, truthful perspective on high school alienation, King ordered his publisher to withdraw the book — not because the book caused the teenagers to commit their violent acts and not because King doesn’t believe strongly in his First Amendment rights (he describes in the essay how much it pained him to “[throw] a blanket” over the “unpleasant truths” the book had revealed about teenage bullying).
Rather, King did so because he’s not an obstinate dick. Therefore, he was willing to acknowledge that the book acted “as a possible accelerant” for the mentally ill boys involved in the shootings. He recognized that the shooters may have found a “soul brother” in Decker, the bullied teenage anti-hero of his story. The Decker character may have given them “blueprints to express their hate and rage,” and for that, King decided, Decker “had to go.” “You don’t leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it.”
King’s “Guns” essay is available on Kindle. (Why yes, that’s another Amazon link, but honestly that’s not why we wrote about this. Promise. But you should still click on the link and then go on a massive online shopping spree until your credit card is maxed out and then you should apply for more credit cards and max those out and then sell your television and household furniture and first-born child to buy even more stuff because you love The Daily Dolt so much you’ve turned into some kind of Amazon crack addict.)
All of King’s earnings from the sale of “Guns” will go the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.