Guns, Tent-Pegs, & Nylons

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of E. Merrill Root’s 1971 book entitled America’s Steadfast Dream.

“One mode of anti-frontier and anti-self-reliance propaganda is contemporary hysteria about gun control – a part of the materialistic determinism of the hour. To the superficial minds of ‘Liberals,’ collectivists, Marxians, et al., instruments are supposed to act upon man, and men (no longer self-reliant) merely to be acted upon; to them, murder lies in the gun and not in the soul of man. So they think that to deprive men of guns would prevent man from murder!

“What the Power Boys – the Insiders – behind the gun controls really want, of course, is not to control guns but to control us. . . .

“Gun control is the new Prohibition. It will not work, as Prohibition did not work. But meanwhile it will be tried, as a sentimental cure-all, a new usurpation of the rights of a once thoroughly self-reliant people, another step on the march to 1984. It is only a symptom of our modern disease, but it is well worth examining at a little more length. And, as I recently made a trip to the land of Sentimentalia, and brought back a published account of gun controls there, I hope you will permit me to offer it as evidence speaking to our condition:

‘A few hundred of the several hundred million citizens of Sentimentalia have in recent years have been shot by criminals. The Congress of that land, led by Senators Tom Prodd and Jokey Hidings, and egged on by the President, responded with a law to first register, and eventually confiscate, all the wicked instruments known as “guns.” The law was passed amid tears of joy.

‘But, alas, when guns continued to be used by the happy thugs thus freed from the fear of being shot by self-reliant citizens, the Prohibitionists claimed that this meant that knives needed to be forbidden . . . and then violence and murders would end. They already had laws against switchblades (quietly evaded); but now they claimed that any sort of knife was lethal; so they sent out teams of bureaucrats to register pocket-knives, letter-openers, and straight-edged razors, and to register and license the owners of paring-knives and butcher-knives, and steak-knives and ice-picks . . . so nobody was supposed to be murdered any more. Some conforming, society-hypnotized housewives even came marching into police stations with aprons full of knives, and sang, “You Shall Overcome” as they dumped them in heaps . . . presumably to be melted into plowshares. (Nobody was ever sure of this, and the cynical even suggested that they found their way to the underprivileged, for after all the underprivileged needed knives.)

‘Even so, murders continued in Sentimentalia, and sporadic violence, so the Prohibitionists announced that it was because the controls hadn’t gone far enough. After all, murders were often committed with baseball bats, hammers, axes, hatchets, etc., etc., and how could you have a non-violent world until you did away with baseball bats, hammers, axes, and hatchets, etc., etc. Thereupon carpenters, bowed with a sense of guilt, paraded into public squares with hatchets and hammers by the gross, and dumped them before the melting pots. But houses were no longer built, and baseball ceased to be much of a game, and Paul Bunyon went for the tall timber and was never seen again because, as a self-reliant man, he wouldn’t register his axe.

‘When murders still continued, the Prohibitionists found a wicked book called the Hebrew Bible, and discovered that Jael had killed the sleeping Sisera with a nail or a tent peg, and Samson had slain a thousand with the jawbone of an ass – and so they registered and licensed all tent-pegs and nails, and searched out and confiscated the jawbone of every last ass. And when the murders still took place, the Prohibitionists found that they were sometimes committed with women’s stockings, so now no woman was allowed to appear with stockings unless her legs were examined full length to assure that she had a license sewed onto her nylons, and eventually they decided that women had no constitutional right to stockings anyway, and should keep them in a public repository while not wearing them, and call for them when needed. And the police went around stripping nylons off women’s legs, and everybody was sure that this was the end of murder.

‘Next some “Liberal” read a play by William Shakespeare and found that Othello murdered Desdemona with a pillow, so all pillows had to be licensed. Often the Prohibitionists came breaking into homes at night, and snatched pillows from under sleepy heads for failure to produce a license. When murders still continued, “Liberals” discovered that desperate men used fingernails and teeth, and now going to extremes they extracted all teeth and abolished all fingernails. But even this wasn’t enough. They discovered that murders had been committed by kicking; so you had to have a license for a pair of shoes, and you had to register every pair of feet, and some large, brutal-looking feet were amputated.

‘By this time, people were so fed up with controls that they took out after the sentimentalists and the Power Boys with fists and fingers and frozen snowballs and rocks. Senators Prodd and Hidings and even the President took refuge in bomb-shelters and managed to survive; but on the other side of their trauma they armed themselves with guns.’

“Such is the account of something rotten in the State of Sentimentalia. But ‘Liberals’ never learn, and the Prohibitionists still suppose that murder is in the gun and not in the soul of man!”

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