This is a story about how the west was won… and lost again.

One day, we went shopping at an old building housing several antique businesses:everything from household to farm memorabilia… things that take you back in time. In my case, way back. Right in front of me was a Wild Bill Hickok replica gun set. What a beauty! – crisscrossed gun belts with rows of silver bullets and pearl-like gun handles adorning the Colt 45 six-shooters.

Bill had the reputation as a great wild west gun fighter. He never held up banks; but, the price they wanted for this collector-type set was highway robbery. No more shooting up the “bad” guys for me. Yet, fast-forward to today, it seems like the wild west is here again. This time, the bad guys are sporting assault-style rifles to deadly effect.

In response to mass shootings – including 22 dead / 26 injured at their outlet in El Paso, Texas – Walmart announced that they, as the largest firearms seller in the U.S., have discontinued the sale of key weaponry and ammunition. CEO Doug McMillon stating, “The status quo is unacceptable.” Also, the situation has risen as an issue in the current Canadian national election – with promises of more restrictive gun legislation.

Whether you’re for it, or against it, in a country with more per capita gun deaths than anywhere, Walmart’s action – as the world’s largest retailer – is monumental. But, America’s gun lobby, The National Rifle Association (NRA), criticized the move saying the company’s decision was “shameful” and that it would cost Walmart business.

When I obtained a firearm’s license, it included a RCMP background check and a gun safety course – augmenting my early army cadet days. On our hobby farm, the needs were comparatively benign: controlling unwanted pests.

A common reason people give for having a firearm is self-protection. But actually, having a firearm didn’t make me feel any safer. It wasn’t because I was afraid of someone breaking into our house; I was afraid of what I would do if someone actually did… overreacting, blasting away. Police studies also show that the public underestimate injuries or death due to accidents and domestic disputes, by having guns semi-easily available.

Incredibly, a 2017 US government report indicated that 60% of firearm deaths are by suicide. Apart from sadness, what does that say about the mental health of American society? Is Walmart on the right side of history? Or, is it true – as touted in a 1968 issue of American Rifleman magazine – that “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”

John Lennon lampooned the idea in song… puzzled why anyone would need to shoot something to be happy.

“When I hold you in my arms/And I feel my finger on your trigger/
I know nobody can do me no harm”

Wild Bill was a violent man with a gun; John Lennon was a man of peace without one. Both were murdered. As kids, we didn’t understand that guns carry responsibilities and consequences. And now?

Some say that guns aren’t the problem – people are. The problem comes when people’s guns become an extension of their troubled world.

Fred Parry

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