From the National Rifle Association comes two rewritten fairy tales, “Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun)” and “Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns).”
“Most of us probably grew up having fairy tales read to us as we drifted off to sleep,” reads the editor’s note posted along with the new altered tales on the NRA Family webpage. “But how many times have you thought back and realized just how, well, grim some of them are? Did any of them ever make your rest a little bit uneasy? Have you ever wondered what those same fairy tales might sound like if the hapless Red Riding Hoods, Hansels and Gretels had been taught about gun safety and how to use firearms?”
Of course, what the NRA terms a “twist on these classic tales” might not be so reassuring to the families impacted by the more than 350 shooting incidents involving children under the age of twelve in this country each year. Toddlers aged three or under shoot either themselves or another person roughly once a week, an average of more than 50 times a year.
So far this month, children under 12 have been involved in at least 30 shootings. They included a 7-year-old Chicago boy who died after apparently shooting himself with a handgun he took from a dresser drawer and a 2-year-old Georgia boy who is in critical condition after accidentally shooting himself in the stomach with a revolver he took from his mother’s purse and a 2-year-old California girl who also is in critical condition after accidentally shooting herself in the head with a gun that then somehow disappeared.
There was also a 4-year-old Florida boy who was sitting in a rear seat of a vehicle his mother was driving when a loaded handgun she had stashed under the front seat slid to the back. The boy unbuckled himself from his booster seat and reached down to pick up the pistol, which discharged. The bullet tore through the front seat and hit the mother, a gun rights activist and Ted Cruz supporter named James Gilt, in the back. Gilt called a friend, who called 911.
“She was shot by her son?” the dispatcher can be heard asking in the recording.
“Her son, he’s a little boy,” the friend said.
The continual kiddie carnage has not deterred the NRA from posting tales that would only encourage a youngster to reach for a gun in such a way as saves the day in Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun) or Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns.)
Imagine you are a youngster, tucked into bed as your loving parent reads you this:
Once upon a time, there was a young lady who lived with her parents at the edge of a wood. Her mother made her a riding cloak of red velvet, which she wore all winter long, so the people in her village called her Little Red Riding Hood.
One New Year’s day, Red awoke to learn that her grandmother wasn’t feeling well. She and her mother put together a basket of food to bring through the woods to her cottage, which lay on the other side.
Red loved the woods, and was happy to walk through them. Usually, there would only be the sunlight and the squirrels, but there was a dark side to the wood. There were shadows, there were beasts, and there could be danger. One birthday not long ago, Red was given her very own rifle and lessons on how to use it—just in case—to be sure that she would always be safe. So, with a kiss from her mother, rifle over her shoulder and a basket for her Grandmother in her hands, Red took a deep breath and entered the woods.
“With a shiver, she burrowed into her cloak, her breath making clouds in the frozen air. Deep into the woods Red went, playing a game with herself to see how many animal footprints she could recognize in the snow. “Deer,” she quietly said to herself, “squirrel.” She turned as another set of footprints caught her eye, and gasped. Those footprints cast in snow were undeniably the tracks of a wolf. They were fresh, so Red knew the wolf couldn’t have gotten far. Red felt the reassuring weight of the rifle on her shoulder and continued down the path, scanning the trees, knowing that their shadows could provide a hiding place. She continued down the path step by cautious step until she saw him. Their eyes met. Red had known he was there but, seeing the glint in his eye and his terrible smile, her heart skipped a beat. This was the biggest, baddest wolf Red had ever seen. His wolfish smile disappeared for a moment when his eyes fell on her rifle. He stayed in the shelter of the trees as he called out to her.
“Hello there,” he tried to sound friendly, but Red knew that this wolf could not be trusted. She responded with a polite “hello,” and kept on her way, staying aware of his location, but never meeting his eyes.
“Where are you going all alone?” The wolf tried to keep her talking, tried to convince her he was a friendly wolf, tried to get this young girl within the range of his snapping jaws.
“I don’t talk to strangers,” Red replied, never straying from her path.
The wolf followed along, staying in the shelter of the trees, trying to get Red to respond. As she grew increasingly uncomfortable, she shifted her rifle so that it was in her hands and at the ready. The wolf became frightened and ran away.
As the time passed in the woods, Red began to relax, but stayed aware. She stopped in her favorite meadow to rest, where she took a long drink of water and wove together evergreen boughs to bring a winter bouquet to her grandmother. When she felt refreshed, Red continued down her snowy path.
While Red was resting in the forest meadow, her Grandmother was surprised by a knock at the door. Red must have gotten through the forest very quickly, she thought. But, when she opened the door, she found herself face to face with a wolf. The very Wolf that Red had met in the woods.
Grandma had heard of this wolf before; the hunters had spoken of him.
This was not just any wolf.
This was the most horrible wolf in the forest.
This was The Big Bad Wolf.
Taking Grandmother by surprise, the wolf easily pushed past her and into her cottage. Grandmother turned so she was face-to-face with the wolf inside her cottage.
“What big eyes you have,” Grandma gasped as she backed away.
“The better to see you with,” replied the wolf.
“What big ears you have,” She turned, with her back to the door.
“The better to hear you with,” the wolf said, coming ever closer.
“What big teeth you have!” Grandma said, as his fierce jaws came near.
“The better to eat you with!” the wolf threatened.
The wolf leaned in, jaws open wide, then stopped suddenly. Those big ears heard the unmistakable sound of a shotgun’s safety being clicked off. Those big eyes looked down and saw that grandma had a scattergun aimed right at him. He realized that Grandmother hadn’t been backing away from him; she had been moving towards her shotgun to protect herself and her home.
“I don’t think I’ll be eaten today,” said Grandma, “and you won’t be eating anyone again.” Grandma kept her gun trained on the wolf, who was too scared to move. Before long, he heard a familiar voice call “Grandmother, I’m here!” Red peeked her head in the door. The wolf couldn’t believe his luck—he had come across two capable ladies in the same day, and they were related! Oh, how he hated when families learned how to protect themselves.
Red was as surprised as the wolf, for she had not thought she would see him again, and certainly not at her Grandmother’s house. “Grandmother!” she cried, “Are you all right?”
“Of course, dear,” Grandma replied, soothing her granddaughter, “Now, let’s get this wolf tied up.”
Red worked quickly, tying the wolf so that he could not harm them. As they finished their work, they heard the call of a huntsman outside. He had followed the tracks of the big bad wolf to Grandmother’s door, and had thought she might need to be rescued. Looking beyond Red into the cottage, he saw that they had already rescued themselves. The huntsman took the wolf away, leaving Red and her grandmother alone at last. They embraced, hugging each other tightly, relieved that the wolf was gone.
As they slowly began to feel calm, Red got her grandmother chicken soup and a cup of tea. They sat in companionable silence, happy in the security that comes with knowing they could defend themselves. That New Year’s Day, Red and her Grandmother had enough excitement to last the year through.
And they all lived safely ever after (except the wolf, but that is a story for another day).
Any child who hears this NRA tale with a twist and later comes upon a gun will now have a whole new way to play Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf. A gun would also be just the thing to act out the new Hansel and Gretel.
In the NRA version, Hansel and Gretel slip out of the house before dawn with a rifle they have been “taught to safely use.” They leave a note for their parents explaining they have gone hunting so as to feed the family.
“They got a few squirrels and rabbits, which would certainly help, but were hoping to find bigger game that would mean even more food for the family,” the NRA tale says. “They heard a rustling in the leaves, and slowly turned to see a magnificent 10-point buck drinking from a stream. Gretel readied her rifle and fired. Her training had paid off, for she was able to bring the buck down instantly with a single shot. She and Hansel quickly field-dressed the deer and packed up to head back home, hardly believing their luck. They were excited to show their parents what they’d gotten.”
But as night fell, they had difficulty seeing the pebbles they had left to mark their way. They became lost and chanced upon a cottage.
“A cottage they had not seen before,” the NRA version says. “A cottage made of gingerbread, with a candy roof and iced decorations all around. Tired and hungry, Hansel and Gretel were tempted to stop for food and a rest, but knew that it wasn’t safe to talk to strangers. So, with a sigh, they kept walking. And heard an urgent whisper.
Hansel heard it first and stopped his sister, and they both heard it again. ”Help us!” the whisper said, as Hansel and Gretel looked to see who it was. “We’re in the gingerbread cottage,” the whisper continued. “The witch has us!” They went to the window, where they saw two young boys, clearly brothers, locked in a cage before a simmering pot.
“We thought nobody would ever come!” the boy whispered excitedly, seeing Hansel and Gretel. “We have been here a week. The witch is fattening us up to make us into a stew! I don’t know how much time we have left” Hansel and Gretel exchanged horrified glances.
“Where is the witch now?” Gretel asked.
“Asleep,” the boy replied, looking over his shoulder, towards the bedroom from which they could hear the soft sounds of snoring.
“We’re going to get you out of here,” Hansel told the boy, hoisting himself up and climbing into the window, helping Gretel in after him, for he was stronger than his sister.
The boys directed Hansel to the key that would unlock their cage while Gretel stood at the ready with her firearm just in case, for she was a better shot than her brother. Hansel unlocked the cage and opened the door. The hinges gave a groan and the sound of the witch’s snoring stopped, the silence filling the room as they looked at each other in panic. Gretel got her rifle ready, but lowered it again when the snoring resumed. They helped the boys back out the window and hurried into the forest, breathing a sigh of relief when the cottage was out of sight. They knew they had to get home to their parents to get help with the witch. Thankfully, the moon was now high enough for its light to highlight the pebbles. Hansel and Gretel found their way back to the path and the four of them got back home as dawn was breaking.
Their parents were overjoyed to see them come home from their hunting trip with meat for the pot, and shocked to hear of their adventure in the witch’s cottage. After reuniting the boys with their parents, it was time to take on the witch…and get some hunting done in the meantime. Villagers, prepared with rifles and pistols, headed into the forest, Hansel and Gretel leading the way.
When they came upon the witch’s cottage, the sheriff locked her into the cage in which the boys had been locked just the night before, to be taken away so she could never harm another child.”
Of course, neither the tale nor the NRA make any mention of the hundreds of actual children who are harmed or who unintentionally inflict harm with firearms each month.
A real life sheriff, in Putnam County, Florida, has said he is weighing whether to lock up Jamie Gilt, who is recovering from the wound she received after being accidentally shot by her 4-year-old son as she drove. The charge, if lodged, would only be a misdemeanor, violation of Section 790.174 of the Florida Penal Code, failure to keep firearms out of the reach of children.
In any event, Gilt has taken down her Facebook page, Jamie Gilt For Gun Sense, which featured a photo of her smiling like a woman who has it all while simultaneously holding her son and a gun.
The new fairy tales remain posted on the NRA Family Page, which promises more to come, much to the disgust of firearms control advocates such as the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. The Brady Group responded with a post headlined, “NRA Bottoms Out With Revised Fairytales.”
Meanwhile, here is another version of Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns), with a twist on the twist. This one begins with the brother and sister slipping out of the house with the rifle to play the NRA’s version of Little Red Riding Hood. Hansel plays the Big Bad Wolf and follows red Gretel, who is playing Red. Gretel holds her rifle at the ready, just like Red does in the NRA version.
Only, the gun somehow discharges. As it does not in the NRA version, but too often does in actual life.
Hansel is shot and nobody lives happily ever again.