Disarming Ralphie

A recent survey revealed that Baltimore, with its high per capita murder rate, ranked as one of America’s most dangerous cities.

A new law going into effect next month could make the city a little safer. Beginning in January, it will be illegal to sell or give a BB gun to a minor. There are reasons for cracking down on BB guns in Baltimore but we’re sure it has nothing to do with the rash of BB gun-toting 10-year-olds hanging out on the street corners until the early morning hours. Neither is the law intended to reduce the number of emergency room cases where little boys shot their eye out.

Jean Shepherd is probably rolling over in his grave. Shepherd’s writings about his childhood growing up in Gary, Ind., are the basis for the popular holiday movie “A Christmas Story.” The film, broadcast repeatedly throughout the holiday season, focuses on a 7-year-old boy, Ralphie, who has a special Christmas request. He hopes Santa will bring him a Red Ryder, carbine action, air rifle with a fringe on the side and a compass in the stock translated: a BB gun.

It appears that Ralphie’s parents will risk a $500 fine and a 60-day jail term if they attempt to fulfill their son’s request within Baltimore city limits.

Shepherd, who passed away three years ago, found the basis for his story about this special Christmas gift when he was once confronted by a woman wearing a button that said “Disarm the Toy Industry.”

Unfortunately for Baltimore, the toy industry is not responsible for the dozens of liquor store holdups that occur each week nor is it responsible for the families who are threatened and killed by drug peddlers for cooperating with police. The toy industry is also not responsible for the prevalence of carjackers in “Charm City” who seem to get their start in the trade as soon as they’re old enough to see over the steering wheel.

The BB gun is a unique toy enjoyed by kids for well over a century. It’s not for everyone and should only be used in certain safe places. The packaging encasing a BB gun makes this statement dozens of times.

The demise of the BB gun is just another part of Americana that’s fading away like many other facets of life that are restricted or limited because of the government’s ambition to take care of every single person. The days are numbered for kids in America who wish to go outside and shoot at a cardboard target under the watchful eye of their father.

Toys serve as a useful refuge for kids to escape the reality of everyday life whether that toy is a BB gun or a Barbie Doll. The terror of rampant street crime in Baltimore offers a violent reality for too many kids. Yet Baltimore officials seem content with “protecting” their residents by disarming the “Ralphies” of the world.

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