This is a true story. Thirty years ago, my wife and I visited her family at their home in Sundance, Wyoming. Ginny’s brother Rick and his wife Sue took us out for a drink at what passed for the young person’s bar. In the process of catching up, we began talking about their grandfather, who was about 90 years old, and whose longtime partner, whose name I forget, but let’s call her Joan, had recently died in the local hospital. “Yeah, Grandpop’s real upset,” my brother-in-law confided. “Last week he got drunk and took his shotgun and went over to the hospital and demanded to see Joan. When they told him she was dead, he began to shoot up the waiting room. They had to call the sheriff to come take him home.” No charges were preferred.

That was Round One. When Round Two arrived, we were joined by another young couple, Tom and Patty. The four locals began talking about a recent incident in the neighboring town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota (neighboring–as in forty miles away) where a young man had walked into a Hardee’s fast food restaurant and tried to hold up the place at gunpoint. “Fifteen guys went out to their trucks and got their rifles,” Tom said, “and came back and blew him away.” (I’m not vouching for the accuracy of the story, only Tom’s telling of it. But Rick and Sue and Patty supported his account.)

At that point another customer walked past, a man with a badly disfigured face. “That’s Don,” Sue explained. “One night he got depressed and decided to kill himself, but his gun slipped, and he only blew off his jaw.”

At that point, Patty thought to try to bring the out-of-towners more into the conversation. “Where are you folks from?” she asked.

“New York,” we said.

New York?” she responded with astonishment. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

Priceless, right? The story came to mind this morning when I heard about this pinheaded Arkansas State Senator named Nate Bell, who tweeted “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”

Bell’s inexcusably snide, ignorant tone aside, it’s a fair question. It’s also fair to wonder how many senators would have changed their votes on gun control had the Tsarnaev brothers set off their bombs and killed one cop and wounded another on Sunday instead of Monday. It’s also a fair question to wonder how many dogs, cats, racoons, guys sneaking a smoke on their patios and police officers involved in the manhunt would have been shot if everybody in Watertown had an AR-15 by his bedroom window.

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Jamie Malanowski

Jamie Malanowski is a writer and editor. He has been an editor at Time, Esquire and most recently Playboy, where he was Managing Editor.