Season 4, Episode 2, of MacGyver is a story called “Blood Brothers” where MacGyver protects two teens from drug dealers while experiencing flash-backs of the childhood tragedy that set him against guns and handguns. From Wikipedia:
Back in his childhood home town, MacGyver is haunted by memories of his youth where a friend was killed by a gun while preventing his friend’s son from using a gun to defend himself against hoodlums.
While the episode works very hard to evoke a specific emotional response, and while it explains MacGyver’s phobia of guns, the moral it tries to convey (“When are they going to do something about guns?“) doesn’t apply – not in our modern day of 2017.
(Note in passing: after all the times MacGyver blows up Murdoc, or drops him in acid, or knocks him off cliffs, or drops buildings on him, etc., Mac’s aversion to firearms seems a rather weak stance.)
Back to the specific episode, I shall break down the specific issues point by point.
* * SPOILERS * *
Horror That Haunts MacGyver
The flashbacks tell the story of MacGyver, his friend Jesse, and two of their other friends who arrange a private target session – and get tragedy.
They scrimp and pool their money together to buy some ammunition.
- California – actor Richard Dean Anderson’s home state – already has laws to keep anyone under age 18 from buying ammo, and as of January 2018 will require background checks and outlaw internet sales for ammunition.
- My home state does not have an age restriction, but don’t you think four small-town ten-year-olds placing an order at the ammo store would spark some interest? Maybe the proprietor would ask if it was for their dad, or something of that nature.
Apparently he didn’t in MacGyver’s case.
The boys steal a revolver out of one of their fathers’ dresser drawers.
- The boys are already doing something wrong – stealing – no matter what comes after.
- If the gun had been in a safe, or carried on a parent’s body, or if the boys had been under the supervision of a responsible adult, this would never have happened.
I’m not exactly in favor of helicopter parenting or police-state surveillance of our kids, and I acknowledge it’s not always easy to tell when your child is devious, but none of these problems are the fault of the gun.
MacGyver, Jesse, and their two friends head deep into the woods for some target practice.
- Again, this proves they know they’re doing something wrong. The gun didn’t have much to say about it.
The accident: one of the friends was holding the gun, saw a bird in a tree, and for some reason decided to shoot at it. MacGyver, for “some reason”, decided he shouldn’t, and threw up his hand to stop him. The gun flew up, landed on the ground butt-first, and went off. The bullet struck Jesse in the stomach.
- Let’s close our eyes and imagine if this scene had been different. If the boys were out with their fathers, not sneaking on their own, they would probably have been at an official gun range, and would be taught proper range rules.
- The range is either “hot” or “cold.” Hot is for pointing firearms at the targets and shooting. Cold is for examining the targets and walking around down-range with no touching the guns. You do not mix the two.
- Don’t move in front of the targets while the range is “hot.” MacGyver might have gotten himself shot, trying to grab the gun out of his friend’s hand. If a mature, responsible adult were there, he would have dealt with protecting the bird, if necessary.
- Always, always, always treat a gun as though it’s loaded, even if you know for certain sure it’s not.
- Keep your finger off the trigger at all times unless you are actually in the act of shooting something you want shot.
- Never point a gun at something you don’t want to destroy. In my home state, just pointing an unloaded gun at a person is a Class A misdemeanor.
- This episode was aired in 1988, when guns were less secure. A modern handgun will probably have a “firing pin block” which is mechanical device that prevents the firing pin (thing that hits the back of the bullet and makes it shoot out the barrel) from moving forward unless the trigger is pulled. No trigger-pull, no pin movement, no shootie.
And of course, there are other safety features: my pistol has a trigger safety, and a manual safety that prevents the gun firing when it’s engaged. Even the Glock, famous for not having a “safety,” actually has several safety features, just none that require an extra motion to flip a lever before firing. (Check out Benjamin Sobieck’s post for writers, with tips on how exactly a Glock is different.)
Modern gun manufacturers have done a lot of work to make sure the firearm goes off when you want it to, and never otherwise. If the gun Mac and his pals grabbed was old, with few modern features and worn parts, or had some other mechanical fault, it could have accidentally discharged – but the chances of a gun randomly “going off” when it’s dropped aren’t as high as Hollywood would have us think.
When Jesse is shot, the two other boys panic and run off, leaving MacGyver to do first aid alone.
- They were off in the woods in the middle of nowhere, because they knew they were doing something they shouldn’t.
Close your eyes again: we’ll imagine they were instead out with their fathers, learning the ropes of firearms at an actual firing range. If, tragedy of tragedies, negligence and coincidence combined to create an accidental shooting, the adults would have the ability to perform first aid, carry Jesse out of the area, and get him to medical attention. There would likely even be a clubhouse or home nearby where they could phone for an ambulance! (No cellphones in that day and age, but that wasn’t Colt’s fault.)
MacGyver takes the time to disassemble the bicycles they rode in on to create a rolling stretcher to carry Jesse on.
- When in a bad situation…make something out of disassembled parts!
Mac and Jesse reach the road, but (if memory serves) the first car they see is rude and blows past them.
- Not the gun’s fault.
Finally, MacGyver gets Jesse to help, but it’s too late… The boy bleeds out, and MacGyver is forever scarred.
The Sins of the Fathers…
…are passed on to the children. Interspersed with this tragic past is a “current day” story about the sons of MacGyver’s friends who are in trouble with a drug dealer, who’s trying to move business into town.
The teen boys have problems and secrets they’re keeping from their parents.
- Apparently MacGyver’s buddies were as unconnected from their sons as they had been from their own parents as children. This could easily happen to anyone (you never imagine it’ll be your kid…!) but once again, this is not Smith&Wesson’s fault.
- One of the fathers is the police chief! If, as soon as the boys became aware of the drug dealer and his evil plot, they had come to their fathers, the adults would have dealt with the problem, keeping the teens safe. (But what fun would that be? Mac couldn’t show off his problem-solving skills!)
The drug dealer and his lackey seek to kill one of the teens. They have guns.
- “Drug dealer” – by definition, someone who doesn’t care about the law because drugs are illegal. (Even in California, cocaine – the specific drug discussed – is still illegal.) If they don’t follow the anti-drug laws, small chance they’ll follow any anti-gun laws.
- By the way, murder is also illegal. Even in California.
- Let’s imagine again. This time, it’s MacGyver’s dream world, where the law-abiding teens can’t get guns. Betcha the criminals would still have them – and not all of us have Mac’s skills for self-defense using shaving cream and rubber bands. The boys would have to hold their breaths until the police arrived – with guns. Because of course the police have guns.
What Tragedy Teaches
Near the end of the episode, the doctor battling to save Jesse’s life says, “When are they going to do something about guns?”
Every human death is tragic. Every child death hits us right where it hurts. But ignoring the real issues of something – or mis-assigning blame for the factors – does nothing to help us stop it in the future.
It’s not 1988 anymore. Gun manufacturers have indeed “done something,” making an accidental misfiring highly unlikely. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has created the Eddie Eagle program specifically to teach kids what to do if they find a gun, so that they won’t be accidentally hurt. (This does nothing for the children with scheming intentions, but the NRA can’t help that.)
Parents: hold your children close! Safety features are no substitute for diligence and personal responsibility, and in the end the safety of our kids and neighbors is in our hands. To quote Mr. Sobieck:
Projectiles are unemotional, uncaring and stupid. They can’t think for themselves. Neither can the firearms. Only the shooter can.
Kimia Wood has been writing stories since she was little. Most of the TVs shows she watches are old, though, which explains why she feels the need to dispute a show that was cancelled in 1992.
Her current series White Mesa Chronicles takes an up-beat view of the post-apocalypse, where the good guys have guns…lots of guns!
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Feature image is courtesy of the Internet Movie Firearms Database, imfdb.org.