This is another totally true story. I’m a journalist; you should never question what I tell you:
The other day, I was on the terrace of my palace on the moon with a friend of mine who’s a magical talking bear, when the conversation turned to the ongoing gun control debate.
It started innocently enough. We were trading bear puns, a favorite hobby of ours.
“I find you unbearable today,” he told me, cackling from around the stem of his pipe.
I frowned and shoved my foot in his face.
“Looks like I’m bear-footed today,” I told him.
He pushed my foot away with his paw.
“Was that a joke? I bearly noticed.”
“Just bear with me. I’ll think of something better.”
“You mean bear-tter, right?”
And we both started laughing so hard I thought the airtight dome that surrounds the moon palace and allows us to breathe might collapse.
After calming down, Aloysius … that’s the bear’s name, Aloysius McUrsine … Aloysius took a couple of contemplative puffs on his pipe and returned to reading the day’s copy of Human News Today, his preferred daily rag. The front of the paper had a story about U.S. leaders arguing the merits and demerits of stricter gun control laws, the sight of which set my mind to wandering away from the moon to more earthly concerns. Like many people, it’s an issue that had been plaguing my thoughts since the June 12 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida; and the Dec. 2, 2015 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California; and the Nov. 29, 2015 shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the Oct. 1, 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon; and the July 16, 2015 shooting at those two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee; and the June 18, 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; and the May 23, 2014 shooting in Isla Vista, California; and the April 2, 2014 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas; and the Sept. 16, 2013 shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. and so on and so forth.
I knew Aloysius was feeling political that day because he was wearing his #BlackBearLivesMatter T-shirt, so I decided to get his take on the matter.
“Well, Adam,” he said after giving his top hat a contemplative readjustment, “from what I gathered, there are basically two options when it comes to gun control.
“First, there’s the Everything Option,” he said, holding out one empty paw. “Basically, this means every single person in the country is armed at all times with whatever weapon they see fit. Handguns, high-powered rifles, automatic weapons, falconets, broadswords, lightsabers … once those are invented … medieval flails and impromptu bludgeoning weapons like nunchucks made from two staplers connected with fishing line will all be fair game.”
“And how exactly will that make us safer?”
“Well,” my bear friend said, puffing on his pipe, “the theory goes, if everyone is armed to the teeth, the threat of possible violence will prevent actual violence. Most people don’t want to start fights with someone who could potentially reduce their bodies into tiny puddles of goo with a pocket Death Star or something.”
I nodded. “Makes sense, I suppose. What’s option two?”
Aloysius held out his other empty paw.
“That’s the Nothing Option. With it, nobody has any weapons at all. The government outlaws anything more dangerous than a bouquet of peacock feathers and forcefully removes any and all firearms from people’s homes and … if all those threats don’t turn out to be empty … cold dead heads.”
“That sounds like the safer of the two,” I said. He shook his head.
“From what I understand, the only people left with access to weapons will be the criminals,” he said. “Everything from psychopaths to prostitutes to jaywalkers will roam our streets armed with katana blades, AK-47s, bazookas, high-powered laser pointers and fistfuls of Roman candles rigged together with duct tape. It will be like open season on innocent people, if those who oppose the Nothing Option are to be believed.”
The bear leaned back in his chair, hooked both paws into the arm holes of his stylish vest and sighed.
“And that’s basically it,” he said. “Those are the two options when it comes to gun control.”
I scowled and said, “Neither sounds great. Couldn’t there be some kind of, I don’t know, compromise? Like, a third option that isn’t so extreme?”
Aloysius threw his head back and released a booming laugh. It echoed across the dome.
“Oh, Adam,” he said, using a claw to wipe a tear from one eye. “You’re so naive. That’ll never happen. You humans are too territorial to share middle ground with each other. And because neither side is willing to budge, this argument will never be settled. I’m just glad I hibernate through much of the 20 years or so I’m alive so I don’t have to listen to the endless quibbling.”
It wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear, but it was likely accurate.
“So what should we do while our leaders debate this until the next inevitable mass shooting?”
After a few more puffs on his pipe, Aloysius said, “Just grin and bear it, I guess.”
It was a decent bear pun, but at that moment, neither of us much felt like laughing.