23 July 2014


Early Edition: Shooting Accident

This episode gives us one of the more interesting challenges of Season 1. A child shoots his brother with a gun that his mother has been keeping because she fears (with very good reason) that their estranged father will return and try to kill her. What is one who hears the news in advance to do?

As if he heard today's question back in 1995, Gary Hobson says, "I get the gun. I'm in. I'm out." But is it really that simple?

About eight hours later, he's still in.
So, no . . . not that simple.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? The younger boy in the story certainly does at one point, which is when he takes the liberty of proposing to Gary on his mother's behalf. =P So does the ex-husband, when he walks in on the little domestic scene you see in the above screen cap. But surely the solution doesn't have to be that complex. Let's go over the problem in more detail, shall we?

For the boys' mother, the gun is really the last resort. The last time her ex-husband forced his way in, it took the police twenty minutes to arrive; the time before that, the emergency operator didn't even pick up her call. What she really wants is to be able to move to a safer area--but she'd have to win the lottery first. After rationally weighing her limited options, she bought a gun, took lessons from a retired policeman, and resigned herself to reality. (For the record, she's not thrilled about a firearm in her home, either.) What would you suggest she do?

It's a farther-reaching issue than the specific worst-case scenario that Gary is trying to prevent, so we can forgive him for his moral myopia that day . . . especially since the newspaper itself gives him another chance.

You put back the gun. You're in. You're out.

If you take the gun away, then one boy won't be able to shoot his brother with it, which is a good thing . . . but neither will a woman be able to defend herself from a killer with it, which is a bad thing. Yet if removing the gun wasn't the answer, replacing the gun probably isn't, either. I had to laugh at Gary's idea of a good solution to this new problem. Had the writers themselves not bailed him out with a convenient plot development, he really might have ended up marrying the mother! LOL!

This is my favourite Early Edition episode so far--and it gets bonus points for its great use of a Three Stooges clip! I had worried that it would demonise guns without acknowledging that there is often a legitimate need for them, but it doesn't take that easy route. Instead, it shows the consequences of feeling as if you can't trust anybody, such as the tendency to see everyone as a potential enemy instead of a potential friend. If you think that all you have is a gun, then of course everyone will start to look like a target.

Your Turn to Be the Hero: Would you keep a loaded gun in your home for self-defense?


Sheila said...

This has been the subject of some debate between my husband and me. For now, the answer is no: the risk of an outside shooter coming in is less than the risk of an accident. In the future, in a different area, in different circumstances, I could see the answer being yes -- but boy would I worry about accidents, and see what I could do to make things safer.

I hate guns, in general. But I can also see how they can be a defense for the weak and vulnerable. The law is supposed to be that, but it often fails ..... as when a woman a year or two ago fired a *warning shot* against her abusive ex and was sent to jail. Meanwhile sometimes people who shoot when they shouldn't get off scot-free.

Entropy said...

Yes, and it's essentially no different from teaching your kids not to play with the knives on the counter or the matches. When they're very little you remind remind remind "Don't touch!" and keep it out of their reach. As they get older they can be trained in gun safety.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sheila -- I wouldn't want to live in an area where having a gun for home defense is essential, but I wouldn't mind children of mine growing up around firearms. I think it would be the best, most "organic" way to educate them about the right uses of guns and proper gun safety.

Entropy -- I'm handier with a baseball bat myself, but it has its limitations. If I were in a very dangerous area, I think I would get a gun and do my best to teach my children what it is for.

Brandon said...

I like a lot about the way this one was handled, as well: We all on occasion try 'solutions' like Gary's, suppressing what was not the problem but just one symptom of it.

I can't imagine myself ever keeping a gun in the house for self-defense, although I've known people who do. Guns just aren't my thing; I think there's part of me, too, that has the view that, barring the neighborhood completely falling apart, having my own gun at least slightly raises, not lowers, my chances of dying. I don't know that that's an entirely rational part of me; but so it goes.

Enbrethiliel said...


It becomes clear early on that the mother's gun represents emotions that everyone in her family wants to keep suppressed. That means that only someone who is part of the family can really deal with it. But that doesn't give us an answer to what a disinterested do-gooder who knows the future can do.

I've never lived in a place dangerous enough to justify owning a gun, but because of where I work and the hours I keep, I've been advised to invest in some pepper spray!

Brandon said...

I wonder if the implication is that we should, in fact, get out of the habit of thinking we can always do good as disinterested do-gooders -- even if we know the future -- because some problems can only be solved by becoming a directly interested party. In this case, Gary only manages to get anywhere when he becomes a bit closer to the family than he was ever expecting. Of course, that's not necessarily a very comfortable idea -- whenever Gary becomes involved he usually comes close to being killed. Or re-married.

Enbrethiliel said...


I had to LOL at your last lines! ;-)

That disinterested parties shouldn't get involved is an interesting way to frame moral issues, especially if we try to apply the principle on a geopolitical scale. A neighbour would be justified in stepping in to help (Hey, where were this family's neighbours, anyway?), but someone on the other side of town might do better to adopt a "non-interventionist" policy.