Archie: [on TV] “Good evening, everybody. This here is Archie Bunker of 704 Hauser Street, veteran of the big war, speaking on behalf of guns for everybody. Now, question: what was the first thing that the Communists done when they took over Russia? Answer: gun control. And there's a lot of people in this country want to do the same thing to us here in a kind of conspiracy, see. You take your big international bankers, they want to - whaddya call - masticate the people of this here nation like puppets on the wing, and then when they get their guns, turn us over to the Commies.”
Edith Bunker (played by Jean Stapleton): "Oh, Archie, I'm glad they put you on a stool--you look taller sitting down.”
Archie: [on TV] “Now I want to talk about another thing that's on everybody's minds today, and that's your stick-ups and your skyjackings, and which, if that were up to me, I could end the skyjackings tomorrow.”
Mike “Meathead” Stivic (played by Rob Reiner): “You could?”
Archie: [on TV] “All you gotta do is arm all your passengers. He ain't got no more moral superiority there, and he ain't gonna dare to pull out no rod. And then your airlines, they wouldn't have to search the passengers on the ground no more, they just pass out the pistols at the beginning of the trip, and they just pick them up at the end! Case closed.”
Mike: “That's incredible, Arch.”—All in the Family, Season 3, Episode 1, “Archie and the Editorial,” air date September 16, 1972, teleplay by George Arthur Bloom and Don Nicholl, based on a story by George Arthur Bloom, directed by Norman Campbell
When the above scenario played out on the TV hit sitcom All in the Family 40 years ago, it’s a safe bet that everyone watching at home, even those on the “anti” side of the gun control debate, recognized the patent absurdity of Archie’s position. Forty years later, however, the National Rifle Association (NRA) appears to have accepted this proposal lock, stock and barrel, so to speak, as its president, Wayne LaPierre, responded to the Newtown Massacre by calling for armed guards in every school.
In a blog post even more squarely in the tradition that Jonathan Swift established in “A Modest Proposal” of satirizing the most deadly matters in absolutely deadpan treatment, novelist Peter Quinn suggests compulsory gun ownership for every American school-aged and above—including for members of Congress, who, when some whacko opens fire from the visitors’ gallery in the Capital, will instantly deliver “bipartisan return fire by 435 crack shots.”
Unfortunately, daily news reports outstrip the capacity of satire to shock with rank absurdity anymore. I’m afraid that before long, the NRA will respond to Quinn’s wildly tongue-in-cheek “proposal”—and others of Swiftian ilk, on matters of the most deadly seriousness—just as it appears to have done with Archie Bunker’s idea: by embracing it.