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Why not just outlaw the potatoes?

By Vin Suprynowicz

Vin Suprynowicz

February 23, 2003

On Jan. 29, Allan Hall reported from Berlin for the Times of London:

"German youths have taken up a dangerous new pastime: firing potatoes as fast as a rocket from 'bazookas' made from drainage pipes. ...

"The so-called Kartoffelkanone are made from piping and masking tape bought at any hardware store. With a range of 200 metres they could split a man's head at 15 metres ... .

"The guns are not governed by the usual strict firearms regulations in Germany, but prosecutors in the republic's 16 states are passing emergency rulings to try to outlaw them. ...

"Police are considering asking leading hardware chains to sell piping only to adults. Local stores that sell hairsprays and pressurised lighter fluid, the favourite propellants for the weapons, may also be asked to sell them only to adults. ... "

And heck, if that doesn't work, they can always ban potatoes. They're only teen-agers -- they'll never figure out they can switch to turnips.

When will the totalitarians (functional definition: only the government police can have guns) figure this out? Trying to disarm industrious young males who want to blow things up is about as productive an endeavor as the king in the old fairy tale trying to destroy all the needles in his kingdom, so his daughter wouldn't be able to prick her finger, as foretold in the witch's curse.

The European nations are now busily torching up the receivers of all the free weaponry we handed them over the past 60 years -- including some really beautiful, vintage BARs -- before mailing them back to us as functionless souvenir "parts kits." Do they honestly believe that freedom has no enemies left?

What all the free nations should now do is undertake to train their youth to use these tools responsibly, and then see to it that there's a real rocket launcher in every home.

Sixty and seventy years ago, the Japanese invaded China ... but not Hawaii. Hitler invaded France ... but not Switzerland. In which nations did these tyrants fear they might encounter the sleeping giant of a well-armed populace?

• Meantime, it's hard to dispute that Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" -- an exploration of America's supposed high rate of gun violence -- has had the greatest impact of any American documentary since his own take on Michigan's Carter-era recession ("Roger and Me") 14 years ago.

"But in their praise of Moore's provocative and often hilarious filmmaking style," writes Ben Fritz (co-editor of Spinsanity, a Web site that tracks and analyzes political rhetoric) in the Jan. 12 Orange County Register, "critics have neglected the fact that 'Bowling for Columbine' fails at the most basic task of a documentary: telling the truth."

In an article for Forbes, Fritz points out, reporter Dan Lyons found multiple distortions in Moore's documentary. Among the most significant: "The much-celebrated scene at the beginning of the film where Moore receives a gun at a bank in return for setting up a certificate of deposit turns out to be false.

"In reality, customers at the branch where Moore shot the scene are normally required to pick up their guns at a local (gun) store. ... Yet Moore makes it look like it's standard practice to receive a gun right there, even joking before he walks out, 'Here's my first question: Do you think it's a little dangerous handing out guns at a bank?' "

In fact, there's nothing unusual about this kind of lie, any more. The day an arrest was finally made in the wave of D.C. sniper killings last fall, I watched a TV reporter and a network anchor share expressions of amazement over the fact that the reporter had been able to find Web sites where the manufacturers of perfectly legal AR-15 rifle variants "advertise them right out in the open!"

If he were really doing his job -- instead of staging big-government show-and-tell propaganda -- the first thing that anchor should have said is, "While we've got you right here on the air, Ron, go ahead and type in your credit card number and your home address, and let's see if they'll ship you one."

The reporter would have discovered that no such thing was possible; the rifle would have to be delivered to his neighborhood (federally licensed) gun store, where he'd have to undergo Sarah Brady's beloved "background check."

The gun-grabbers pass laws which strip away the rights of law-abiding citizens to go down to the local store, plunk down our cash, and walk out with a perfectly legal firearm. Then, when their very success strips them of the "propaganda image" they're looking for -- rather than acknowledging how far they've already succeeded in crippling our liberties -- they just lie.

Besides which, someone might want to ask the admittedly wry Mr. Moore what it is, precisely, that would be unsafe about handing out guns to depositors at a bank? The security guards carry them. Police officers aren't required to disarm before they enter. Bank robbers rarely open accounts (developing a first-name acquaintance with the tellers) in the banks they intend to loot. In fact, the careers of the greatest American bank robbers of the 19th century -- the James-Younger gang -- were ended when the everyday American citizens of Northfield, Minn., decided to lie in wait for them on Sept. 7, 1876 ... with their perfectly legal, civilian firearms.

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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