I actually contemplated not drawing this panel, as over a week had passed after the shootings at Umpqua Community College, and public memory being... let's just say fickle, the conjunction between that tragedy and the annual gun show on UAF campus would have escaped most folks. But then I woke up to the news about Northern Arizona (the 46th at a school so far this year). Update: well, that didn't take long (also see here and here for a couple variations from students & faculty, respectively, on protesting the issue at Texas universities).
To be sure, there are many divergent perspectives on this complex issue; some simple, many contentious - but few better stated than over here at Stonekettle Station. And our Alaskan state legislators will presumably capitalize on these tragedies to advance their own agenda (see related previous post here), much as their counterparts on the national level.
But aside from the inevitable, and unfortunately reoccurring debates on the issue of gun control, what is at the core of this particular panel is the thoroughly tasteless insistence of not only an NRA affiliated organization promoting such an event ("140 vendor tables with guns, ammo, knives, outdoor gear, accessories, antiques, and much much more!"), but the questionable responsibility - and morality - of the university in even hosting it to begin with, especially within the context of recent events.
On a personal note, what's often left over after all the initial anger and fear, is a simple sadness. Which can be summed up perfectly by what happened immediately upon hearing the awful news from Oregon while teaching one of my classes up on campus. I stepped outside of the department for a moment to gather my thoughts, and instead got to watch college-aged kids running around with toy guns playing a zombie game. Sadness.
Not so obvious a reference to local events is the secondary dig in the caption - really just a bonus cheap shot - at the impending dictate from administration banning tobacco on campus. Good thing they still serve booze I guess.
Update: The panel, which ran as an editorial on the Sunday opinion page, elicited a wonderful letter to the editor, which succinctly demonstrates the disconnect, and more than a little deflection (“…inexcusable… inappropriate… in poor taste… disgusting… intolerable… deplorable… adult bullying… just plain fighting dirty…”). The paradox is reinforced even better by the UAF Sun Star’s coverage of the event, which juxtaposes a benign mission statement of sorts from the gun show organization against a full-color picture of a vendor showing off an RPG. This perfectly illustrates the discongruity, moreso bookended with a bonus quote from the President of the Tanana Valley Sportsmen’s Association:
In response to the appropriateness of having a gun show not long after a mass shooting on a college campus, Lewis said that it was perfectly appropriate.
“What stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Lewis said.
|Well... THAT escalated quickly.|
Update II: Another letter to the editor, and another perspective that, while raising its own good points - albeit secondary or irrelevant to the core issue (ex: "... to malign the many sportsmen and sportswomen and law-abiding gun enthusiasts..." etc.) - fails entirely in getting the point of the editorial. Criticizing, for example, the newspaper (and notably not the university which paradoxically champions any number of other examples of behavior modification and social programming), or for that matter the artist, instead of the idea, the concept behind the controversy, completely dodges the context and therefore the irony that the cartoon encapsulates.
Update III: Statement from the editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner regarding the unwarranted and misguided criticism it has been receiving, and qualifying it's policy on publishing informed opinions, including controversial ones:
One of those differing views, in the form of a cartoon by local artist Jamie Smith and published in the News-Miner on Sunday, Oct. 11, has prompted some negative reaction toward the News-Miner. The cartoon calls attention to the irony, in Mr. Smith’s view, of holding a gun show sponsored by the Tanana Valley Sportsmen’s Association on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus just one day after fatal shootings at universities in Arizona and Texas.
That cartoon is the opinion of Mr. Smith. It is a visual letter to the editor.