Kirby: Deciphering America's bipolar position on guns

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Last week, a friend who teaches school in southern Utah confided to me that a student had brought a gun to school that morning.

It was a BB gun, but he said it looked like a genuine Glock. Kid had it tucked banger-style in his waistband. Exactly why he did this is unknown, probably to everyone including himself. He's a kid.

My exasperated friend referred to him as "a stupid kid," which is redundant. I know because I've been one. Still am, according to my wife (boss, parents, relatives and various #@*& government agencies).

If this makes me sound immature, I don't care. My entire life I have believed what writer James Napoli says: "Maturity is a word that attempts to make boring sound like a good thing."

Growing up I had two implacable enemies: authority and boredom. I hated both of them in all their forms — school, church, work, you, etc.

Today I understand that these things are necessary evils in my life, either because I need them or because I can't make them go away. More important, I recognize that I live in a different time.

In 1971, a shop teacher at Skyline High School discovered 25 feet of dynamite fuse in my locker. Know what happened? Nothing. He was more upset about the roach clip.

For the record, I never seriously considered blowing up the school. Even then I was smart enough to understand that jail was the most boring thing outside church.

Also I wouldn't have wanted to hurt Mrs. Walker, a total babe of a teacher on whom I had a highly inappropriate (but therapeutic) crush. Certain medications hadn't been invented yet, you see.

If I were an actual kid today (rather than just the emotional one you're reading right now), half an inch of dynamite fuse in my locker would prompt call-outs of the police and fire departments, endless court-ordered psychoanalysis and probably forced medication.

Like I said, different times. But it's precisely this difference that makes today's fury over gun control perplexing to me.

Forty years ago, dynamite fuse in a school locker was no big deal. Neither were practice mortar rounds, sabers, crossbows, fireworks, percussion caps and spear guns, all of which I had and sometimes brought to school.

But then people weren't massacring each other wholesale back then. Also, sexual fantasies about hot schoolteachers weren't such a big deal, either. Nope, mindless fear back then was basically limited to weed.

Today, people think it's OK to freak because a kid brings a BB gun to school. It seems perfectly natural to them that a zero-tolerance policy needs to be in place when it comes to even imaginary guns.

Conversely, when a slightly older idiot wears an assault rifle into a department store, others tell us with a straight face not to worry because he's only exercising his Second Amendment rights while he shops.

I have no idea what the answer is to America's bipolar position on guns. All I know is that I used to be the crazy one.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or