I am having a recurring nightmare.
It takes place in a lecture hall at Anywhere State College during a tedious presentation on the history of video games. The only alert person in the class, a straight-A student majoring in Wi-Fi, suddenly notices an unfamiliar male entering the room.
He is wearing a hooded sweat shirt because it is cold outside and the wind is blowing, but it makes him look like a convenience store crook. He is also carrying a backpack and begins to reach into it.
I know, because I am an observer in the nightmare, that the stranger is only going for his NRA Play Station “Blood in Space” to occupy his mind during the lecture by a professor whose topic that day is “Pacman, the Godfather.” The subject is, like, yesterday, and hardly anyone is listening or even paying attention to the presence in the doorway.
But the alert Wi-Fi major in the sixth row, whom everyone knows by the nickname “Guns,” is sure that the doorway figure fits the profile of a campus killer and isn’t about to sit there and be murdered without a fight. Guns instantly draws his legal 9-millimeter Beretta and begins blasting away.
The gunfire arouses the instincts of others in the class, and they, similarly, draw their permit-allowed weapons ranging from handguns to shoulder-mounted rocket launchers and join the fun. One student throws a flash/stun grenade.
There is chaos as the lecture hall turns into a battleground of crossfire, smoke and explosions, and when the battle stops, the only one standing is the lecturer, who is behind a bulletproof lectern. After a moment he continues his talk about the trail-blazing animated hungry ball that captured the attention of the world by eating electronic blips.
I fell into the nightmare after reading that 12 states are considering bills that would allow people with concealed-weapons permits to carry handguns on the campuses of public universities. The revelation came after the deadly shooting at Northern Illinois University. The prospect has stirred online support and is causing gun merchants to drool over the prospects of increased sales.
I was so terrified at the notion of giving guns to kids who can’t figure out where their next class is that on a night when the rain was falling and the wind blowing, I had another nightmare.
This time I am taking my grandson to his kindergarten class at the behest of his mother, who has a doctor’s appointment. As I am watching him run off happily into the play yard on School Street, I notice that another little boy has dropped his Roy Rogers lunch box.
It is red and yellow and has a picture of Rogers on the front mounted on Trigger, who is rearing. Rogers is waving his cowboy hat in the air the way he used to in all of those exciting 1950s westerns. I am intrigued by the lunch box because most kids today don’t even know who Roy Rogers is, or was, much less Trigger, who is stuffed and mounted in a museum in Branson, Mo.
Then something equally significant catches my eye. In addition to the apple, carrot sticks and tofu sandwich that fall from the boy’s lunch box, there is a snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver of the type I once carried as a backup weapon while a Marine fighting in the Korean War.
“What in God’s name?” I shout, surprised that the snub-snouts, as we called them, are still around. I help the kid put it back in his lunch box, along with the apple and the other stuff, and ask where he’d gotten it. His grandfather, he says, who had also been in Korea. Then the boy’s mommy comes by from parking her car and hustles him into the play yard, admonishing him for talking to a stranger -- bad boy.
The gun in the lunch box? That doesn’t surprise me because it is within the guidelines of a new state law that mandates the right of students from grades K-12 to carry firearms to school to protect themselves against kids with guns. (This is a nightmare, after all.) It is basically the same right that had been granted earlier to college students.
Well, sure, even in the nightmare I am a little nervous that children would grow up knowing more about Smith & Wesson than Abraham Lincoln, but at least they get training in firearms safety and sharp-shooting, learning how to pick off the dangerous classmates without hurting others. I guess John Wilkes Booth had that kind of training too.
But then I begin worrying that the grandpa who furnished the snub-nose might come up with an antiquated .30-caliber air-cooled, belt-fed machine gun to mount in the kindergarten yard for all the kids to share. How could they possibly rely on the lethal efficiency of a weapon that was more than a half-century old?
I awoke from the nightmare both pondering the possibilities and writhing from the very notion of kids with guns. But then I finally calmed down, comforted by the fact that it was only a bad dream and not a reality.
At least not yet.