Roll the Credits. This Western is Over

One of the favorite shows of my childhood was the Rifleman. I always got a thrill out of the opening scene where Lucas McCain walks up the street firing his modified Winchester. But even when I was a kid, it seemed odd to me that at the end of almost every episode, immediately after Lucas killed the bad guy(s), he and his son Mark would have their heart-to-heart talk about right and wrong, then one of them would grin and say something like, “race you back to the barn!” The heartwarming music swelled and the credits rolled, leaving me with just one question:

What did they do with the bodies on the ground?

Didn’t they ever clean up the mess before they went out to play? Oh well, it was just a show, not real life where everyone knows we have to clean up the carnage, wipe up the blood, and bury the bodies.

Westerns are fun to watch but real gunfights are truly terrifying. You can’t really shoot people even for a righteous cause and then immediately go back to daily life. I’ve known professional soldiers and police who had to take lives and while they had extensive training, they still suffer for it afterward… a lot. For them there’s no going back to normal.

This is why arming school teachers, expecting them to kill a guy on a shooting rampage is a bad idea. It’s a last resort, not a solution, because our heroes are traumatized, survivors are haunted, and people are dead. We’ve got to find a better way to deal with our problems.

Too many of us want life to be like the westerns where we have heroes and villains. We applaud people who sacrifice themselves to save the children. We boo at the ones who show cowardice. The shooter is a cardboard villian. And too many of us sit around afterwards like we just saw a movie and brag about what WE would have done if WE were on the scene with our own trusty firearm.

But what do we do with the dead bodies?

We don’t want any dead people at all, do we? We don’t want teachers dying from shielding their students. We don’t want a student to die for her beliefs like the girl at Columbine. We don’t want anyone dying for being in the right place at the wrong time. We don’t want police to die in battle. We don’t even want the attacker to die (or at least we shouldn’t).

The only acceptable outcome is for everybody to live. We want for kids and teachers to be safe, and parents to be free from constant dread. We want mentally ill people to get healing before they do something horrible. We want for law enforcement, health care, and social work to have enough resources to coordinate and intervene before something happens. And if all that fails, could we keep the guns from getting into the hands of killers in the first place? That would be great.

I know. It’s hard and expensive and will take more time than it takes to watch a western. But so what? It’s better than having dead people, isn’t it?

Time to saddle up, folks, and get this job done.

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