Sunday, February 12, 2012

This is not a gun safety class

Arizona is marking its centennial with a big party on the mall in front of the State Capitol just west of downtown Phoenix. There are rides, fried foods, food trucks, beer gardens, entertainers and lots of guns. 

Guns are Arizona are inexorably linked. There's the state's "Old West" heritage - the "Gunfight at the OK Corral" is reenacted every day in Tombstone. Tourist trains going to the Grand Canyon are regularly "robbed" by desperadoes, Tucson (where a gunman killed six and wounded 13 in 2011) annually celebrates Dillinger Days with a giant shoot out downtown.

We even have an official state handgun, the .45 Colt Single Action Army, the "gun that won the west." (A choice that puzzled some of the state's native peoples since it's also the gun used in the genocide against Native Americans, but that's another issue.) 

The state also likes to celebrate its ties to the military. The famed "Buffalo Soldiers" helped tame the Arizona frontier. The "Code Talkers" were recruited on Arizona (and New Mexico) Indian reservations. Every F16 pilot in the US Air Force gets their initial training at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

So the state's centennial seems like a perfect opportunity to combine some of our favorite things. Guns, military and kids. These kids were handling nonfunctioning replicas of M16 assault rifles. The replica rifles were provided by the Naval Sea Cadets, an organization that teaches young people about naval life.