By Joe Zimmerman
In today’s television world, programmers have turned their backs on guns. With last year’s cancellation of the Discovery channel’s series “American Guns,” “Ted Nugent’s Gun Country” and others, liberal democrats are on a warpath to remove firearms-related shows from their programming lineup. Their mission: make life safer for our children. Unfortunately, the American public is being fed a steady diet of misinformation from the narrow-minded people protesting networks and their advertisers. These activists who lack common sense have no comprehension of the rich and historical role guns have played in American TV. A look back in time reveals a history where guns on TV were plentiful and, yes, our children were very safe indeed . . .
Virtually every hero we grew up watching on TV strapped a piece to his or her side. Whether you were watching “Star Trek,” “Bonanza,” “I Spy,” “The Beverly Hillbilies,” “Starsky and Hutch” or “Get Smart,” all the lead characters at some point wisely carried an insurance policy with them. Comedy, science fiction, dramas, westerns, cartoons, it didn’t matter, guns were plentiful on TV and played an important part of our American culture in a positive and constructive way. And I repeat, for Mr. Obama’s sake, that our children were safe. So please stop hiding behind our youth, lying and scaring the hell out of everyone as you use our kids as props for your anti-gun agenda, Mr. President.
For this writer, no other television program displayed the virtues of the gun better than the classic show, “The Rifleman.” A western that starred a professional baseball and basketball star turned actor, Chuck Conners, as Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as his son, Mark.
The show Aired between 1958 and 1963 and was about a single parent in the late 1880s who was raising his son near the town of North Fork, New Mexico. The key to the show’s success wasn’t the rifle, a modified 1892 Winchester with a strategically placed pin-screw imbedded into the large loop lever, which made the weapon fire every time the lever was fully cycled. Instead, the show’s success was based around the relationship between father and son.
As a single parent myself, I appreciate the fact that “The Rifleman’s” objective in each episode was to incorporate and educate the viewer about things like morality, justice, compassion, understanding, forgiveness and everything in between. Quoting lessons from the good book and teaching his son the right from wrong, Lucas McCain was a symbol of what was great about America.
With his rifle turned into a superior semi-automatic weapon of the day, Lucas protected, educated, helped and fought alongside his fellow countrymen. The town of North Fork wouldn’t have been the safe haven it was without that gun. Although not the key to the show’s success, McCain’s rifle was nevertheless important enough that it could almost be considered a third cast member – a character that the McCains, as well as the television viewer, admired and respected.
Lucas’s rifle was so popular that it became a TV star itself, and for good reason. With common sense and family values, McCain illustrated the virtues of this gun every week and American children throughout the country honored the show by playing with the cap-gun flip-action replica version manufactured by the Hubley company back in 1958.
With life lessons in each show, a perfect example of our current administration’s policy is was illustrated in an episode entitled “The Day A Town Slept.” A new Marshal, Ben Judson, is elected and self-righteously states “the town felt it was time for a change.” As such, Lucas is ordered to “check in” his rifle, as the new marshal was enforcing a strict gun control ordinance.
McCain, being the law-abiding citizen he was, very reluctantly, and with suspicion, turned in his rifle. But the meaning of the new marshal’s “change” soon became fully realized and the situation turned for the worse. Eventually McCain decides to retrieve his weapon to right a wrong, suggesting an unarmed society isn’t an option for a free and just society.
In another episode entitled “The Schoolmaster,” Lucas is warned by the new school teacher not to bring his rifle anywhere near the school grounds (sound familiar?). After McCain’s rifle accidentally falls off their wagon, Mark reaches down to give it back to his father. In his attempt to lift the gun, the teacher barks at the boy, ordering him not to touch the gun. Mark replies that “it’s not good for a rifle to be in the dirt.” The boy’s common sense response fell on deaf ears as the teacher is shown to be an emotionally strict man, set in his ways (don’t talk back, just do as I say). Again, sound familiar? But Lucas speaks his piece and makes his point regarding the teacher’s stance and we’re better for it.
The lessons taught and learned from shows like “The Rifleman” are more important today than ever. It’s a shame that the main depiction of guns on TV today are almost exclusively when they cause death and destruction. The example of Lucas McCain, as a role model with rifle in hand, is badly needed to remind people that the gun can also stand for freedom, justice, security and sometimes yes, just plain old fun.
Gone are the days when Lou Costello could pull out his snub-nose cap gun and fire away at his rival, Stinky on “The Abbott and Costello Show.” But, we have a humorless anti-gun administration with delusional activists who, if they’d only look back in time, would realize that when guns were plentiful on national TV and shows with some common sense like “The Rifleman” dominated our airwaves, American children were indeed safe.