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Pyle: Gun porn gives the wrong idea

Published September 1, 2012 7:53 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On the last day of 1996, I looked up from my desk at a suburban Kansas City newspaper to watch a television journalist — a university classmate of mine — deliver a surprisingly calm report on how a man she had gone to interview had pulled a gun on her.

The man, 79-year-old Michael Kolnhofer, had just been accused of being a Nazi concentration camp guard during World War II and lying about it on his application for citizenship some 44 years previous.

The reporter, Teri Schaefer, had gone to Kolnhofer's home to ask him about it. Many reporters do things like that. Not just those who went to school with me.

Kolnhofer went inside and came back out with a pistol that he waved around to express his desire that the media would respect his privacy during this difficult time.

Reporters called the police, which they do a lot, this time not to ask questions but to ask to have their own miserable lives protected. The police came. They do things like that.

The alleged Nazi waved his gun at them, too, a really bad idea. Shots were exchanged. Three from the bad guy. Nine from the good guys. One — one — of the rounds hit the alleged Nazi in the leg. He was taken to a hospital and died there three months later.

Last week, a man walked up to a workplace rival near New York City's Empire State Building and shot him dead. Two of New York's Finest closed in and, when the murderer aimed his gun at them, the cops opened up. Sixteen shots among them.

The killer died. Nine innocent bystanders were wounded — all of them by bullets fired by the police or by debris caused by those shots.

Two incidents, 16 years apart. Hardly a scientific sample. Still, police officers fired 25 rounds and hit two bad guys — an efficiency rating of 8 percent — and wounded nine taxpayers — which should at least lose them some style points.

That never happens in the movies. Bad guy shoots. Good guy shoots. (Unless good guy is Han Solo. Then it gets complicated.) Good guy hits bad guy right between the eyes. No innocent bystanders lost. No scratches on the paint. Not even very much blood on the carpet.

It is that movie magic version of gunplay, not real life, that animates the belief that the world would be a safer place if more of us carried guns.

Guns are maddeningly inaccurate instruments even when, as in these examples, they are wielded by trained officers of the law.

Yet in Utah, we issue concealed-carry permits to all comers who are willing to sit through a minimal training session. We don't even expect them to actually fire the thing on a range.

The James Bond perfection of how a gun is used in combat, compared to how such things work in real life, might be better understood if we called it "gun porn."

Like sex porn, it takes a constitutionally protected behavior and twists it into an unrealistic view of life that can have a powerful effect on the weak-minded.

Last week, in one of its frequent editorials decrying pornography, the Deseret News made the valid point that it is social pressure — shifting views of what is and is not "cool" — and not law that most effectively steers our behavior toward more positive choices.

But if the next Bond film gets an NC-17 rating, it will be for the unrealistic portrayal of unrealistically beautiful people having unrealistically fit — and consequence-free — sex, and not for any of those perfect shots from the spy's Walther PPK.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, read most of the James Bond novels when he was a teenager. For all the wrong reasons. Shoot him a line at gpyle@sltrib.com. Or track him down on Facebook, facebook.com/stateofthedebate.






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