It was Christmas Eve, ten days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Thurston Johnson Jr. was still seething.
“People need to wise up! They’ve got their heads in the sand,” he shouted, as a wide-screen TV inside Raging Bull Tavern showed somber scenes from Newtown, Conn., where a 20-year-old man had gone on a shooting spree.
Johnson was speaking to no one in particular, but Milton Finkelberger, the only other patron in the bar, was just whiling away his time before he needed to pick up his wife, Edna, from the bingo hall, so he decided to engage the burly stranger in a conversation.
Johnson took a gulp from his mug, wiped the froth from his beard, sat still for a minute. He was gathering his thoughts.
“So many school shootings – and they’re doing diddly about it! Just sitting back and waiting for another one to happen.”
“I hear ya. We need more gun control. Too many idiots running around with guns.”
“Gun control? Are you crazy? We don’t need gun control. We need people control.”
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Don’t know where I heard that, but it makes sense to me.”
“So how ya gonna control people?”
“That’s easy. With guns.”
“If idiots are running into schools with guns, other people need to use guns to stop them. This isn’t rocket science, you know.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to keep guns away from idiots?”
“No way, man. Keeping guns away from idiots would be like keeping pasta away from Italians. You’d have the mafia after you.”
“But shouldn’t we at least make an effort to keep guns away from idiots?”
“No way, man. Just because you’re an idiot doesn’t mean you can’t own a gun. That’s what’s great about America. We have the Second Amendment, which gives everyone, even idiots, the right to bear arms. And if there’s one right that idiots value, it’s the right to bear arms. Take my cousin Clayton. He owns eight guns, including three semi-automatic rifles. I asked him if he values the right to bear arms and he said, ‘Yeah, why d’ya think I’m always wearing a tank top? I want people to see my guns.’ And then he flexed his biceps.”
“Sounds like a real genius.”
“Oh, he’s a genius all right. He dropped out of school after eighth grade, has never held a job for more than six weeks. They fired him at the gas station ’cause he kept sniffing the gas and they fired him at the fish market ’cause he kept sniffing the bass.”
“Why does he need eight guns?”
“That’s what I keep asking myself. Why would anybody need eight guns? I’m quite happy with just five. But Clayton, he’s a little strange. He even ordered himself an M203 grenade launcher, like they use in the Army. I asked him why he needed one, and he said, ‘Don’t ask me, bro. Ask the voices in my head.’”
“Aren’t you afraid he might do something crazy, like attack a school?”
“No way, man. Clayton is harmless. He’d never go near a school. He’s too scared of education. But other people out there, you never know. That’s why we need to protect our schools better.”
“All principals need to have guns in their offices. Secretaries and teachers too – and let’s not forget about the janitors.”
“Janitors too? You gotta be kidding?”
“Yeah, the janitors should have a special gun with a barrel on one end and a mop head on the other. Isn’t that what a janitor is for anyway – keeping the scum out of our schools?”
“So you want the entire staff to have guns?”
“Yes, but there’s more to my plan. Just imagine if every desk has a secret compartment under it. Whenever there’s an intruder in school, the principal would push a button, unlock the compartment and a gun would fall out. I’d love to see the intruder’s face when he walks into a classroom and sees 30 guns pointed at him!”
“So you want the entire staff to be armed – and students to have access to guns in an emergency?”
Hearing that word, Finkelberger looked at his watch. “Oh no,” he said. “I’m late. Edna will kill me.”
“Then you’d better get …”
“Yeah, I know. Get a gun.”
“No, I was gonna say, ‘get going.’ What do you take me for – an idiot?”
Finkelberger didn’t answer. He just waved and hurried to the door.