For the past 31 years, the City of Phoenix, AZ has hosted a Fourth of July event centered around what it bills as “one of the largest fireworks displays in the Southwest.” In addition to the fireworks, part of the fun is an array of different vendors offering a variety of amusements. This year, however, the city rejected the application of a Wild West oriented shooting gallery as inappropriate for the event.
The American tradition of fireworks displays on Independence Day, like our national anthem, pays homage to the fact that armed conflict has historically been necessary to preserve America’s unique devotion to the principles of liberty and consent of the governed. Another Independence Day tradition similarly involves a 50-gun “Salute to the Union” on U.S. military bases.
Yet despite the continuing vitality of these traditions, Phoenix park officials rejected permission for the family-oriented concession at their Fabulous Phoenix 4th festival on the basis that it featured fake six-shooters and lever-action rifles that fire harmless infrared signals at reactive targets. The reason, according to a spokesman for the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, was that the “planning committee was not comfortable with an exhibit/game that presented guns in a fun or glorified way.”
In other words, the event organizers apparently concluded that displays meant to evoke “bombs bursting in air” are acceptable public entertainment, but firing simulated Colt single-action revolvers at tin cans and whiskey bottles raises a disturbing “perception of violence given the current climate.”
The owners of the concession, Prescott Pete’s Highfalutin Shooting Gallery, pointed out to a local news source, “We supplied enough reference material for them to see that we’re not shooting people or glorifying it, it’s just a fun amusement.” They also expressed surprise that their concession would get such a negative reaction in pro-gun Arizona, which after all has a vibrant tradition of western-themed entertainment and even enacted a law designating the Colt Single Action Army revolver as the official state firearm. “To me, it’s a case of government overreach and at odds with the political and cultural realities of the state,” owner Pete Fowler stated.
For the rest of us, the sad tale of Prescott Pete is an important reminder that gun control is first and foremost a means of enforcing a certain cultural and political elitism, not a serious attempt to further public safety. The Fowlers are simply small businesspeople hoping to provide a harmless and fun way for their fellow Arizonans to unwind at festive occasions. It takes an especially puritanical kind of bureaucrat to portray their operation as somehow glorifying or promoting violence.
The ironclad rule of anti-gun politics, however, dictates that firearms must only be portrayed in a negative light. And while it’s bad enough that petty functionaries employ this rule to ruin fun and tradition at a local level, it’s a much more serious matter to elevate this attitude to the national stage.
Americans can be sure that if infrared arcade guns aren’t safe in Arizona, no real firearm will escape if the relentlessly prohibitive march of the antigun agenda is allowed to proceed unchecked. And if pro-Second Amendment voters don’t make their voices heard loud and clear this November, it’s their rights that could be headed for Boot Hill.