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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun,” says NRA vice-president Wayne LaPierre, “is a good guy with a gun.”

That’s the logic that armed the Golden Age of superheroes. Not just the absolutist good vs. evil, but the gun part too. Back in the 30s and 40s holsters were as common to superhero costumes as masks and capes. The Shadow, The Phantom, Captain America, even the original Batman gunned down his share of bad guys.

cap am with gunBatman-02

But LaPierre was born in 1948, so he would have been an early Silver Age reader. With the exception of World War II throwback Nick Fury and space soldier Captain Marvel, all those Golden Age holsters had been erased.


And of course Nick is also a government employee. The kind the NRA would station in every school as part of their National Model School Shield Program (no relation to Nick’s S.H.I.E.L.D.).

But since the pair of officers patrolling Columbine weren’t enough to prevent that travesty, the program wouldn’t rely just on well-holstered cops. The NRA’s Shield wants “armed volunteers.”

That’s an interesting new concept. I serve on my local PTA board (yes, I take the minutes), and although faculty surveys are pleading for parent volunteers, legally they can’t even serve as study hall monitors. And that’s before we strap on holsters.

But “armed volunteers” isn’t new in comic books. It’s another name for superheroes. The list is long: The Punisher, Judge Dredd, The Comedian, Deathlok, Hitman, Cable, Bishop, Big Daddy, Hit Girl, Wild Dog, The Vigilante. They tend toward the dark side of the superhero continuum, but even mainstream nice guys like Cyclops and Green Lantern have sported firearms. (For a fuller list check out Superhero Packing Heat.)

Since the cost of expanding police patrols to every school in the country would be astronomical (not to mention a debt-buckling, state rights-trampling expansion of Big Government), the Shield Program would need their armed volunteers to go unpaid. Another superheroic quality. Good guys motivated by selfless altruism to protect their communities.

What George Zimmerman was doing when he shot Trayvon Martin in Florida earlier this year. Insurance underwriter by day, by night Zimmerman was a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman, an armed volunteer patrolling the mean streets of his gated community.

The judge called him “mild,” a “run of the mill” Clark Kent kind of guy, an upstanding student earning a degree in Criminal Justice with dreams of becoming a judge himself. So even if the NRA establishes a rigorous screening process, the School Shield Program will be staffed by many more armed Zimmermen.  And fast. LaPierre wants his Shield up and fully running before students return to their classrooms after winter break.

That’s this week.

When the Avengers found themselves understaffed in the 70s, they advertised openings in their volunteer ranks. That’s how the newly-blue Beast joined up. When the Defenders put out a TV ad a few years later, they were inundated with superhero recruits, more than tripling their numbers. Which the Shield Program will need to do too, since police currently patrol a third of public schools. According to International Association of Chiefs of Police estimates, we’d need about 100,000 new school guards.

So if you are a selflessly motivated good guy and know how to shoot a gun, here’s your chance to answer a superheroic call to duty.

That’s how it works in comic books. What better test study do you need?


[A version of this post originally appeared as an editorial in the Sunday, January 6th edition of The Roanoke Times, minus all the cool pictures though.]

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