I was reading an article in the New York Times by Matthew Walther called, “What the Owner of an AR-15 Sees in Every Single Place He Goes” and I had one of those moments when one sees things differently. It came after a paragraph in which Mr. Walther does his best to explain the appeal of an AR-15 to its owner:
“The primary selling point of the AR-15 is that it can be endlessly modified, configured, reimagined. It can become louder or quieter, easier to carry, wield, fire and reload, or more lethal. It is meant to be combined with a seemingly endless array of customizable stocks and grips, blast mitigation devices, piston uppers and conversion kits. These components are themselves paired with a vast assortment of accessories—bests, helmets, straps and other gear designated at ‘tactical.’”
Know what that reminds me of?
Controlling the Barbieverse
Mattel’s Barbie website has seven pages of them. Barbie owners can mix and match, combine, customize, configure, imagine, and manipulate the multitudinous Barbieverse components at will. That’s what girls mean when they say, “Let’s play Barbies.”
Ownership and Identity
So, do men want a weapon that will give them the same sense of ownership, control, and identity? Mr. Walther says this:
“To the would-be tactician, every place that humans inhabit—housing developments, apartment complexes, stores, strip malls, hotels, churches, hospitals and, yes, schools—is another opportunity to imagine oneself taking part in military-style maneuvers. Where would you go for cover if you were here? How would you hold this position? What weapons and gear would you use?”
To me, that sounds like taking Barbie from her Dreamhouse to her science lab, hospital job, the gym or the spa. You get to imagine how she would get there, what she would do there, and what she would wear for her outing. She would talk to her friends, her dog, her horse. It gives the little girl complete control of an alternate reality: the Barbieverse.
Now, the real-life “he men” who carry an AR-15 would never put themselves in the same category as their daughter or little sister, but they are also playing an imaginary game. Instead of a doll, however, this one employs a weapon of mass destruction.
Controlling an Alternate Reality
I was also fascinated by the idea of grown men imagining themselves taking part in military-style maneuvers. I assume some have served in the military, some would like to have served but did not qualify, and some never even tried, but they all have absorbed the mystique of the heavily armed, infallible soldier who has complete control of an alternate reality. Thus:
“For AR-15 enthusiasts, the gun is not a means to an end—a tool with which you protect your family and property—but rather the end itself, a site of fantasy and meaning making.”
This is a grown-up version of the little boys who say, “Hey, let’s go play Army.” Except, instead of toy guns and wooden rifles, they use the real thing with devastating firepower.
Think I’m going too far? The Nashville murderer’s weapons were decorated with stickers and slogans, like a skateboard or Barbie’s Dreamhouse. But they weren’t pink and pretty. Instead, she supposedly had Nazi Azov battalion symbols on her guns and flags
Problems #1 and #2
That’s the second problem America has to fix. The first is how to take these lethal and highly destructive weapons out of the hands of civilians. It’s the weapon of choice for the sick, twisted young men who make up the vast majority of mass shooters.
In the meantime, think of AR-15s as lethal versions of accessories in the Barbieverse. It might help you understand their mindset.