Dennis O’Neil: Guns?

Warner_Brothers

by Dennis O’Neil

Sometimes I ask myself whacky questions. Like, do rhino teeth get filled? Are we just computer constructs inn some alien game and if so are there rules and how can I get a copy of them? Who cleaned up after Hannibal’s elephants? How did Noah keep all those animals in the ark from eating each other?

There’s been a lot of bangedy bang in the news lately and so what else is new and the answer is nothing, but this prompts another whacky question: why can’t somebody do something about the gun problem? Nothing draconian: despite the irresponsible claims of some political types, Mr. Obama doesn’t want to take your firearms away. If that was on the agenda, you’d think that the presidential minions would have at least begun the effort by now. Dude’s been in office more than seven years and so far he hasn’t confiscated so much as a cap pistol.

Making an effort to forbid guns to known criminals or mental patients would be a possible opener. So would a national registry of folks who want to buy guns. In other words, let’s clamp down on the gunnies as fiercely and mercilessly as we clamp down on those young snots who want drivers’ licenses!

But wait! Enough of this: we’re not in polemic mode today. What we are in is question asking mode – whacky questions – and so here’s another: if there were no firearms, if that ninth century Chinese alchemist had misplaced the recipe and hadn’t bothered to look for it, what kind of action stories would we be writing? I’m pretty sure that at least some of our stories would be of the action variety because that kind of stuff is packaged with our genes. I’m sorry, but a liking for action – oh, all right, a liking for violence – is part of our survival kit. Our mythologies are, from the very earliest recorded history until now, full of warfare and combat and those tales are the offspring of the impulses that gave our ancestors the gumption to lift weapons and protect the family and the tribe.

Gilgamesh, meet James Bond.

Occasionally, I’ve allowed myself to wonder if I could create a hero, a rip-snortin’ justice bringer (possibly wearing a costume) whose adventures did not include dealing with guns. As a science fiction or fantasy piece, sure, easy, no problem. But a story set in our time and world, or a close facsimile of our world – not so easy. Guns are all over the place, wielded by bad guys and good guys alike. What would our world be without them? Has the centrality of guns in our national narratives taught us that gunfire is what solves problems? No need to look any further than the nearest Glock, to deal with it, whatever it is, this time.

Oh yeah, did I mention that another shooting made the news today?


Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated on a new series, without ever of them knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.