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Short answer…I dunno. But the picture above is probably the earliest example of an identifiable anti-gun bias. Now before you tell me “that’s ridiculous” or to “nip it in the bud,” let me explain…

I’m a huge fan of the late, great Don Knotts. And Andy Griffith, for that matter. I have no idea about their personal political leanings (although I hear that Opie is a Leftie). And I don’t have any idea or indication that Desilu Productions, the producers, directors, stars or anybody else associated with The Andy Griffith Show was anti-gun. But the point I am trying to make here, is that if you want to hurt something, one of the most effective ways to do it is to make fun of it.

Think back to your middle school days. There’s a reason we say “kids can be cruel.” They can be. And are. My daughter goes to middle school (she’s twelve, and in the sixth grade). The stories she comes home with would curl your hair. Some of her classmates make Freddy Kruger sound like Fred Rogers. The stories she tells sound like more like Borgia Family Feud than a day at Crockett Middle School.  And that’s on a GOOD day. Their number one weapon? It’s not guns, knives, or cudgels (thank God), but humor, sarcasm, and mockery.

The venerable NBC show, Saturday Night Live has for years commented on the political scene. They were credited by more than a few people with bringing the re-election campaigns of Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush to a screeching halt. And don’t get me started on Tina Fey’s wickedly funny impression of Sarah Palin. Humor has a power than mere diatribes and demagoguery doesn’t – the power to wound from behind the safety of a smile. Which takes me back to Mayberry…

So did the bumbling Barney Fife influence a generation of kids who grew up thinking that anybody who wanted to use a gun is an ineffectual idiot? Did Barney influence folks to see the “wisdom” of gun control? (Remember, Andy allowed Barney to carry only if his revolver was unloaded, and allowed him but one bullet – to be carried in his shirt pocket.)

Did they instill in a generation the false hope that we should be able to outwit the bad guys with brains – but no bullets? Or was the show simply going for the laugh with no real agenda or thought that what’s a funny caricature today can be tomorrow’s poster child for gun control?

I don’t know. I suspect that they were going for the funny, but there are way too many left-leaning writers, producers, directors and actors in Hollyweird for me to completely reject the idea that this could have been more than just an attempt to make people laugh. Don’t believe me? How about this little bon mot from the mouth of Sheriff Andy Taylor:

When a man carries a gun all the time, the respect he thinks he’s getting might really be fear. So I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want the people of Mayberry to fear a gun. I’d rather they respect me.

I don’t know when Hollywood decided to mock gun owners and do everything they could to portray them as idiots, misguided morons, and boobs. But I know that they’ve done a bang-up job (no pun intended) at creating an environment where, when it comes to discussions about guns, it’s “us” versus “them.” Which is a shame, because it’s hard to have an intelligent discussion with anybody when they’re mocking you. And if we are to ever discuss these issues in a civil way, that’s something I wish we really would nip in the bud.

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  1. I just took a quick look at the other shows that were in primetime with Andy of Mayberry in 1960, and found Maverick, Lawman, The Rebel, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, Bronco, Riverboat, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Rifleman, Wyatt Earp, Stagecoach, Laramie, Wagon Train, Zane Grey Theatre, Outlaws, Bat Masterson, Rawhide, The Westerner, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Tall Man and The Deputy. And those were just the westerns. There were also detective shows like The Untouchables and Hawaiian Eye.

  2. Undoubtedly there’s always been a double-standard in Hollywood regarding guns. They hate them, but exploit them when- and wherever possible for ratings/ticket sales. My point isn’t that Hollywood is uniformly anti-gun…just that shows like The Andy Griffith Show either unconsciously or consciously portrayed those that appreciated guns as idiots, in much the same way as Hollywood has recently lampooned fathers to the point where the bumbling idiot dad is now a TV archetype.

    • Actually, Andy Griffith and Sugarfoot are two of the few shows I recall where problems weren’t generally settled with a shootout, whereas “poor Dad” is almost the rule in sitcoms.

    • Heh – I had a Maverick derringer growing up. And watched Garner in Nichols, much later on, another show with less shooting.

  3. I don’t think it’s bias as much as utopian thinking. The thing about drama is that in drama, the creators (writers, directors, etc) get to create their own world. They’re not bound by the rules of the “real world”, they can make the world what they want to be. And so often, it shows in the kind of wishful thinking that Hollywood indulges in.

    I think the best example of this is the Aaron Sorkin vehicle “The West Wing.” Basically they elect Martin Sheen president and he’s everything they wished Clinton was, but without all the flaws.

    I’m sure the writers of the Andy Griffith Show genuinely wished there was a world where a sheriff could rely on the power of his pursuasive and magnetic personality to solve all of the problems a sheriff is called on to solve. I don’t doubt their sincerity one bit. And I’ll bet there are a lot of people who wish the same thing. Hell, I wish the world worked like that.

    The problem with utopian thinking comes when its advocates get enough political power to try and legislate that utopian view of society into existence by banning what they see as the problematic elements. Any political posture that does not take into account the flawed nature of humanity is doomed fo fail.

  4. “but without all the flaws”


    He has Multiple Sclerosis and tries to hide it from the public. His chief of staff is an alcoholic. It’s a running joke throughout the series that he has a monstrous ego and a bad memory. In the very FIRST episode, the main thread of the plot was that he did something klutzy (ran a bicycle into a tree IIRC) and his staff had to actually do SERIOUS damage control over the incident.

    I think Sorkin did a very good job of giving the president feet of clay, if not ankles, shins, calves, and knees of clay.

    Yeah, he wasn’t a horndog, like Clinton, but he certainly had more than one in his senior staff.

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