The Truth, Mainly - 12/17/2007

On the AK-47s and Other Dangers
by Leon Satterfield

Got an e-mail last week from a friend who's a shopkeeper in Omaha's Westroads Mall and who drives to Lincoln for monthly meetings of a writers' group my wife and I are members of.

"Glad we have last week behind us," our friend wrote in her e-mail. "Our store is just a little way down from Von Maur…. That afternoon, I had my coat on and was headed out the door to go to the mall at around 1:30…when Liz [her daughter] hollered at me that she wanted to go to the fitness center first, that she had finished her work…quicker than she expected."

You know what she was talking about, don't you? Von Maur was the back drop to the scene of eight murders and one suicide.

By a stroke of good luck, mother and daughter were not present at the killings of eight shoppers by Robert A. Hawkins, who then killed himself. At the age of 19.

Turns out that he had fired "more than 30 rounds" at the shoppers before he fired one at himself. It also served—a day or two later—as what might have been a model used by the killer who, in Colorado Springs and Denver, mowed down several churchgoers, apparently chosen at random.

And you know about the AK-47, don't you?

I did a google search and found that Stephen L. Hupp, a librarian at West Virginia University, wrote last February that the "AK-47" stands for "Automatic Kalashnikov," the Russian inventor who put the gun together back in 1947. Since then, "Nobody knows for sure but the number [of AK-47s made] is probably between 75 and 100 million worldwide."

The gun is so popular because it's as cheap as $10 in some countries. In most places the prices are between $100 and $300. It's made in more than 20 countries, among them China, Egypt, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Syria, and Iran.

It's also popular, Hupp writes, because "Despite its low price and sometimes shoddy workmanship, this rifle rarely jams, is almost indestructible and is easy to fire with little or no training. It is the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to turn a farmer, teacher, peasant, or even a teenager into an effective killing machine."

I don't know how you react to that paragraph, but it gives me the fantods. All those qualities seem to my English major background to be reasons to outlaw that kind of weapon—unless we want our teenagers to be effective killing machines.

In which case we might consider moving on beyond AK-47s.

Like, you know, selling them other leftover WW2 weapons. Like, for instance, hand grenades with the pins still there. Or bazookas, really cool because you can actually see the missile come out of the bazooka tube. Or the old atomic bombs we could get some crop sprayer to take with us in an old Piper Cub.

What's that you say? That it sounds dangerous? More dangerous than a loaded 1970 AK-47?


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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