Dear Charlton Heston’s Cold, Dead Hands,

It’s time to give up that gun.

I admired your knotty knuckles and cowhide callouses in The Big Country, Ben-Hur, and many others during your warm and living days. I remember thinking, “That’s a pretty tough pair of mitts right there.” I bet you’ve given those composting microorganisms something to think about. Let me ask you this, though: is the rifle really helping you out in your current fight? Or is it backfiring a little, maybe putting some pathogens into the mix that would never bother an unarmed hand?

I know, I know… the rifle is a symbol of militant preparedness. An armed citizenry is the best check against tyranny, right? If a tyrant sent a zombie army to take over your graveyard, they would have to do so in the knowledge that you and your fellow gun-gripping hands would rise up and oppose them. The other dead hands are complacent cowards who don’t realize they owe their freedom to you guys — the minutehands. Everyone knows it was this kind of preparedness that won the day in the American Revolution of Decomposing Extremities. If you really want a militia, couldn’t you just establish an armory — no pun intended — in a centrally located and secure part of the cemetery? You could provide keys to a few trusted and well-trained hands, who would only open it in the extremely unlikely event of a government-sponsored zombie invasion.

Hold on a second, you might say, the militia thing is not the only rationale behind the rifle. What if a lone wolf showed up at the cemetery at short notice, carrying a semiautomatic machine gun between its teeth? If the good guys don’t have access to a deadly weapon, then the lone wolf will run amok. The other dead hands think they are safe lying in the cemetery, but the wolf could strike anywhere.

Let me follow this line of argument to its logical conclusion. I live in tornado alley and often, during tornado season, I worry because I envision a twister carrying away my house with my family and me inside.

Do you think I should purchase a nuclear bomb? They always say tornadoes strike with the force of an atomic bomb. Perhaps if I was prepared to preempt the attack with equal force, my family and I would stand a better chance of survival. I could keep the detonator at my bedside. It would set my mind at ease. If I awoke to the sound of an approaching tornado, I would rush out and warn the twister not to cross my property line. I could cite my rights under the U.S. constitution. Wouldn’t America be a safer place if everyone owned an atomic bomb? No, that’s ridiculous. I mean… why would anyone ever keep an atom bomb around the house? An atomic bomb doesn’t make sense for home security any more than a semiautomatic assault weapon with a massive magazine does.

Your rifle is different. It would be perfect for hunting, and possible to store safely around the house. It’s just, well, you’re not really hunting that much these days. And you’re not around the house much. You don’t need the rifle.

As I’ve said before, you’re a safe pair of hands. You stole the scene from the Ten Commandments in The Ten Commandments. But you’re also, frankly, cold. And, without putting too fine a point on it, dead. You have no business carrying a gun. Any more than a school teacher has any business carrying a gun; or a commercial pilot; or — for God’s sakes — a pastor. Asking these brave people to keep the peace with a gun is abusing their sense of responsibility for those in their care. Criticizing these brave people because they chose not to bear arms in places specifically designed to be oases of peace? I shudder to think how cold and moribund a hand would have to be to point a finger like that. Even down there in the grave, you must have recoiled at that one.

I understand the gun thing was a big hobby for you. But there are others. I don’t know, handball? Pattycake?

People say you’ll never let it go. But I bet you can still flex.You are cold, but not frozen in place.

So drop it, Charlton Heston’s cold, dead hands. Drop the gun. Release your chokehold on the imagination of American gun owners. And don’t say: “But I was cremated.” You guys started this metaphor, not me.

Yours sincerely,
Rob Curran