"In the US, the children's book that glorifies gun carrying."
That's the headline that France's L'Obs, a prominent weekly news magazine, gave to its article about My Parents Open Carry: An Open Carry Adventure, an American book intended to introduce children to the benefits of openly carrying guns.
The article came out last year, but it's a good reminder of how American gun culture looks from the perspective of Europe, where gun ownership is subject to strict limits: its tone falls somewhere between "open-mouthed wonder" and "horrified shock."
The piece's author, Pierre Pauma, seems resigned to the fact that America's gun culture has become so extreme that large numbers of us are eager to find children's literature extolling the virtues of a constantly armed society.
"The book will easily find takers, he explains, because "twenty states allow the carrying of weapons in public."
"Good people have a weapon"
"The book," Pauma explains for the benefit of French readers who presumably do not read many children's stories about how fun it is to sport prominent weaponry while running errands, "depicts the banal Saturday of the Strong family." The children they meet around town "marvel" at the way the "American citizens" have displayed guns on their belts:
"While Brenna continued shopping, teenagers who were curious to see her parents carry a handgun approached and asked if they were real. "Yes," replied Brenna's mother, "they are real." "Cool!" Said the boy. "
The book reinforces its pro-gun message, Pauma says, by having the Strongs respond to questions posed by "naive children." For instance, when a young boy asks why they openly carry their guns with them, Mrs. Strong explains kindly that doing so "helps prevent crimes," is "more comfortable in summer," and shows that the "right people" have a gun.
"Bulk orders from Tea Party groups"
Pauma reported that My Parents Open Carry's publisher was already receiving "bulk orders" from Tea Party groups and homeschooling families.
But the reality, of course, is that the book was a pretty niche publication. Its publisher, White Feather Press, is a small independent company that specializes in "books that promote traditional family values like God, Family, and Country," and that will "break even and make moderate returns." (Although this particular book presumably got a sales bump from being featured on The Colbert Report.)
But those protestations would probably ring a little hollow to Pauma's readers in France. It's hard to imagine them being impressed by the explanation that, yes, this is a country where large numbers of people believe it's their civic duty to prominently display deadly weaponry as they go about their daily errands, despite our catastrophic rates of gun-related murders and suicides — but at least we don't usually read picture books about it!
This book might not be a huge best-seller. But the really crazy part of this story isn't the book — it's American gun culture.