There are people on both sides of the gun debate who make good points. And then there are people who have absolutely no clue.
In that latter camp we might include Senator Lamar Alexander, who thinks that, when it comes to people getting shot to death, "video games are a bigger problem than guns."
We might also include at least some of the 495-plus people who have shared a picture of me on Facebook and tried to make me a poster child for all that is wrong with people who like guns. These people—some of them confused, some of them ill-informed, and some of them possibly just extremely stupid—seem to think that, in the photo you see above, I'm holding a real gun and loving it.
No, people. I'm holding a gun from the video game Halo. But, hey, carry on with your great analysis about what this means about "guys like this" and the size of various parts of my body.
The photo you see above was posted on a Facebook page called "Republican Bigotry Hate Fear Lies and Distortion" on January 10. I don't know much about this Facebook page. They have 65,389 likes on Facebook. They seem to be Hillary Clinton 2016 supporters. They post lots of images of Republicans looking dumb. They rail against oil companies.
I see that they like to use an icon of an upside-down elephant to mock Republicans. Below that symbol is a tagline: "They Lie (And Think We're Too Stupid To Notice)". Gee, why would "they" think that?
I don't know why the RBHFLD people posted this particular image. (I've asked them; haven't heard back yet.) I guess they thought it exemplified what was wrong with gun culture or something. On January 10, the image was posted with the text: "Don't take away my gun."
It was a successful post. It got shared almost 500 times in the last few weeks. It's been liked by nearly 300 people and commented on by more than 400 people. The first Facebook user comment about it: "Dove hunting?" The second: "idiot"
The third commenter began to sense something wasn't right about this image: "That one looks like it was put together by way of a soldering iron and a lot of solder."
The fourth: "looks like Oswald" (later joined by: "Is it any accident that he's a dead-ringer for Lee Harvey Oswald?" You decide!)
As people commented, a certain theme caught on: "*over compensating* me thinks 0.o", "Laugh at my small dick now!", "One inch penis.", "Dude...I am SO sorry about your tiny penis!", " Bwahahahaha!!!!!! Of course he needs a weapon like that!!!! WTF!!! This proves so many theories to be true! Thank you :)))", etc.
Some people seemed alarmed: "Please, please take his gun away", "what a tool id skull fuck this dork !", "Needs his brain removed before he does some real damage", etc.
Some people shared their expertise: "Nice.... Military grade High Caliber Sniper rifle... ( I used one similar to this one in the Marine Corps. ) Able to punch a 5" hole in the flesh of a deer at 1K ft... Completely useless for hunting.. Unless you're hunting dinosaurs."
Oh, here's a good one: "Idiot has his finger on the trigger. That's a photoshop amatuer whackjob."
Voice of reason popped up, too: "The art behind him gives it away- that is not a real weapon, it's a sci-if prop. And we'll [sic] built, too!" and " You people do realize that this is a model of the sniper rifle from the Halo series and not a real weapon, right?", for example.
But, really, this one said it all: "Wow. Ignorance beyond belief!"
That photo of me is real. It was taken on September 3, 2009 when I was visiting the old Kirkland, Washington studios of Bungie, the development studio that was then working on a new Halo game. I'd dropped by the studios—a former supermarket in a strip mall—to tour the company's lobby and chat with some game developers in a small conference room a few feet from the studio's front door. A few minutes before the photo was taken, a police officer had peeked into the conference room and then quickly shut the door. That wasn't normal.
During my visit—and more or less unbeknownst to me until it was all over—cops had descended on the studio. While I had been chatting with Halo developers, police squad cars had been filing the front parking lot outside the studio.
A Bungie employee had been carrying a prop Halo sniper rifle down the sidewalk, toward the studio. They'd taken it out, for some reason. A concerned citizen had spotted him, thought it was a real gun and called 911.
I couldn't blame people for freaking out that day. You see someone who seems to be carrying a sniper rifle down a city sidewalk, you call the cops. Once the police figured out what was going on, everyone calmed down.
The gun was just a prop. It had been created for several live-action Halo shorts that were directed by filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, who was, for a time, tapped to make a Halo movie.
After the cops left, I went back into the lobby and took a look at the fake gun that had caused that stir. I wanted to take a photo, one of the gun lying idle and one with me holding it, to sort of recreate the scene. While I was getting ready to take the latter pic, more surprise visitors showed up. In walked two Halo fans, John Henry and Desirai Labrada. They'd met a few years prior, while playing Halo online. Earlier that year, they were married by a guy wearing the armor of Halo hero Master Chief. I'd been to their wedding—covered it for MTV. On that September day, they were just dropping by Bungie, too, and they loved the idea of the photos with the prop gun. So they snapped some, too.
I'd filed that story remotely from Bungie. Former Kotaku editor-in-chief Brian Crecente wrote it up. We laughed about it. What a weird series of coincidences all that was! Little could we have guessed there'd be this odd coda more than three years later.
I don't own a firearm. I've fired guns twice in my life.
The first time was from the deck of an aircraft carrier, into the Pacific Ocean. I was on an aircraft carrier with my brother, who was serving in the Marines. He and others on the ship were allowed to bring family members along for the final leg of their peacetime voyage. Military personnel on the ship gave tours and let people handle a rifle.
The gun I shot was an M16, I think. First, I shot blanks and then one or two live rounds right out to the horizon. It was shocking how little recoil there was, how little it felt like what I was doing had potentially deadly power. I'll never forget that.
The second time I fired a gun was from the deck of my in-laws' house down south. I'd married into a family of hunters. They invited me to, if not go hunting with them, at least get a feel for one of their hunting rifles. They took one out of the gun cabinet and showed me how to hold it.
From the deck, I shot a pumpkin.
My other experience with guns? Well, I held a Halo prop gun once.
And at least once on the Internet, people saw a photo of me holding a fake gun and made fools of themselves, proving that there are careless people on any side of a heated debate, people who make nasty assumptions about things they know nothing about. Yeah, that happened too.
(Thank you to Twitter user Flawless Cowboy for the tip about this. This one made me laugh.)