Nerf: The gateway gun?

Cam Edwards told me about this story when I made a guest appearance on his NRA News show, and I’m still laughing about it.  Remember Michael Pfleger, the radical priest in Chicago last heard from in the 2008 campaign, defending his friend Rev. Jeremiah Wright?  The one who hung out with Barack Obama for decades, thinks that “America is the greatest sin against God,” and who wound up getting suspended by the Chicago diocese after making himself into a national spectacle?  Well, Father Pfleger is back, baby, and he has a new eeeeeevil in his sights — guns.  Or perhaps more accurately … gateway guns?

There was a time when kids wanting toy guns had limited media images of cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers to emulate. Today, not so.

So the Rev. Michael Pfleger said he is challenging the sale of the toys — in Easter baskets — to a generation plagued by more violent and rampant use of guns in their own neighborhoods.

“I am writing to express my concern and outrage that Kmart is selling Easter baskets, which are obviously for children, with toy guns in them,” Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church in Auburn-Gresham, wrote to officials at the big box retailer, in a Mar. 9 letter obtained by the Sun-Times.

“With the increasing gun violence in Chicago and across this country, I am amazed that you would choose to offer toy guns to our children to make them comfortable with playing with them. I am asking you to remove any baskets with toy guns in them from your store’s shelves immediately,” Pfleger wrote.

These must be realistic replicas, right?  Those can lead to dangerous situations, as a few deadly incidents can attest.  None of those incidents, however, involved the garishly-colored Nerf gun variety:

The toys in question are plastic water guns or Nerf dart shooters in sizes ranging from pistol- to nearly rifle-length, contained in Easter baskets sold by the retailer for prices starting at $9.99.

Seriously?  The candy in the Easter baskets are more dangerous than the Nerf guns and water pistols.  Pfleger explains that as a Christian, he’s offended by the inclusion of violent toys in this “celebration of life,” but as a Catholic priest, shouldn’t he be more offended by Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, and the commercialization of the holiest day on the Christian calendar?  Isn’t that his day job?

Pfleger then argues that Nerf is nothing more than a gateway to the harder stuff:

But equally important is that any psychiatrist will tell you a child who gets comfortable playing with toy guns and pointing them at people as a child becomes comfortable picking them up as an adult. In a nation that’s plagued with gun violence, neither Kmart nor any other store should be selling guns in Easter baskets to our kids.

This sounds a lot like the arguments people make when they demand that the government ban certain games on gaming systems, taken to a reductio ad absurdum level.  Pfleger isn’t demanding government intervention — yet — but the argument is just as ridiculous.  Even if there were something inherently wrong with being comfortable handling a pistol or a rifle, and there isn’t, shooting Nerf darts as a kid on Easter is not going to turn adults later into Mad Dog Colls.

Update: I managed to misspell a word I just coined!  The subhead included the word “Nerfsanel,” which an astute commenter points out should be “Nerfsenal.”  If Nerf ever makes a perfumed foam dart with Chanel No. 5, then perhaps “Nerfsanel” would be correct.

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