I finished Stephen King’s Kindle Single, Guns, over lunch. It’s a highly original take on the debate over gun control, so I don’t think it was fair of me to dismiss it in the previous post as a “rant.” Some of the writing is excessively voiced, in my opinion, but the case he makes rests on considerable research and thought.
The most unforgettable part of King’s essay is how he came to terms with the impact of a novel that he wrote in high school. When he realized that Getting It On, later retitled Rage, had been found in the locker of a 14-year-old shooter who in 1997 killed three and wounded five at a high school in Paducah, Kentucky, King asked his publishers to pull the novel from publication. His youthful novel concerned a troubled boy with a domineering father, and in the novel the boy ends up taking a gun to school and killing his algebra teacher. But King never apologized for writing Rage. He puts it this way in Guns:
No sir, no ma’am, I never did and never would. It took more than one slim novel to cause Cox, Pierce, Loukaitis, and Carneal to do what they did. These were unhappy boys with deep psychological problems, boys who were bullied at school and bruised at home by parental neglect or outright abuse.
King comes out where you would expect, supporting background checks for gun purchasers, a ban on sale of clips and magazines containing more than 10 rounds, and a ban on the sale of assault weapons such as the Bushmaster and the AR-15. But the path of his argument takes the reader places you have probably never been before.
My favorite is his magic-wand wish, if he were granted one for the U.S, described as follows: “Every liberal in the country must watch Fox News for one year, and every conservative in the country must watch MSNBC for one year.” He says middle-of-the-roaders could stick with CSI. The results of this imagined reordering of news sources, King posits, might be a period of grumbling readjustment during which viewers would realize the networks they hated actually had some non-political news on them. After that, he imagines,
…viewers might begin seeing different anchors and commentators, as each news network’s fringe bellowers attracted increasing flak from their new captive audiences….Finally, the viewers themselves might change. Not a lot; just a slide-step or two away from the kumbayah socialists of the left and the Tea Partiers of the right. I’m not saying they’d re-colonize the all-but-deserted middle (lot of cheap real estate there, my brothers and sisters), but they might close in on it a trifle.
You can almost see the mind of Stephen King growing that seed of an idea into a much longer story. What would it be like if people really did switch news sources for a year? His essay released today as a 99-cent Kindle Single makes you think, as does most everything else he’s written in a long and unrepeatable career.