Why Johnnie can't shoot

Art Buchwald

April 23, 1993|By Art Buchwald

THE QUESTION that many people are now asking is, "Why can't Johnnie shoot straight?" With millions and millions of teen-age dollars being poured into guns and ammunition, many schoolchildren are still unable to hit their targets.

People are undecided about who is to blame for gun illiteracy. The schools maintain that it's up to the parents to teach their children how to shoot, and the parents say that learning how to fire a gun is something that the educators are responsible for.

While the battle rages among the adults, the kids are the victims of gun illiteracy.

At Rattlesnake High a student said, "Most kids in school have a weapon, but only 25 percent of them have ever fired one in anger. I asked my father to buy me one, but he said that when he went to high school he didn't need one and couldn't understand why I did. He lived in a different world."

A young man was showing off a semiautomatic AK-47.

"This is my best friend," he said. "I can walk through the school packing it and no one is going to stop me -- not even the nerds who monitor the halls."

"Have your grades improved since you brought the gun to school?"

"It's the difference between a B and a C -- when the teacher sees the bulge in my shoulder she'll give me a B."

I then asked a stupid question. "Do you ever have a fear that your firearm will go off accidentally and hurt someone?"

"The thought had occurred to me, but you can't go unarmed to school just because you're afraid that your gun will misfire."

Surprisingly, not everyone at Rattlesnake carried a lethal weapon. A few students felt that guns were a menace to the student body.

"I don't believe that firearms are the answer to every teen-age problem. Kids should resolve them in some other way," one senior told me.

Another student, wearing a Pancho Villa bandoleer, disagreed: "Guns don't kill students, students kill students."

The principal of Rattlesnake was very defensive about the low marksmanship grades of his students. "We just don't have the funds to provide shooting skills to all our students. My first instinct was to disarm everyone, but there was such an uproar among parent members of various gun support groups that I had to back down. They said that if their children didn't learn to shoot in high school, they would be handicapped when they went armed to college."

Probably the biggest argument against guns in the classroom is that it separates the "haves" from the "have-nots." The have-nots can either buy or steal the best weapons while the haves prefer to spend their money on blue jeans and Doc Martens.

Even if the have-nots don't know how to shoot straight, they still present a danger to everyone else.

The only way to solve the problem is to bring the gun back in the school where it belongs. Get Charlton Heston and other NRA personalities to visit classrooms and explain the value of firearms to a child's education.

This country is No. 1 in the world in school shootings, but it's not going to remain that way if our kids don't get a bang for their buck.

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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