COLUMN: ‘Gargoyles’ and the gun debate


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

Season 1 episode 8 of the animated cartoon series “Gargoyles” can be interpreted as an allegory for the gun control debate. The episode is titled “Deadly Force” and would have aired on US television in November 1994; however, IMDB explains that Disney pulled the episode due to objections to its controversial content.

When I stumbled upon this episode on Disney+, I was watching with my two young kids. What I saw was remarkable: a cartoon franchise from the 1990s handily portraying the topic of firearms in a way children could understand. The 20-ish minute episode goes on to address high tech weaponry and resolves, quite tactfully, an accidental shooting.

“Deadly Force” opens with one of the gargoyles, Broadway, watching a cowboy movie and glorifying guns based on their depiction. Broadway is very much like a naive child in modern times. Since he was a statue for 1000 years, he is completely unaware of many of the dangers of modern life, especially firearms.

After the movie, he stops at his friend Elisa’s house for dinner. Elisa is a gun carrying New York City detective and lives alone. So, when she arrives home, she is somewhat cavalier in her approach to gun safety, leaving her pistol unsecured in its holster.

Later, Broadway enters the apartment from a window, sees the gun, and begins to play with the loaded pistol as if he were a child, mimicking the movie he watched.

This is when he accidentally shoots his friend. He leaves her, believing her to be dead, on a stretcher outside a hospital and begins a rampage to pursue arms dealers and destroy firearms.

Meanwhile, a mobster steals a shipment of high-powered laser weapons with the intention to distribute them to criminals. Chaos ensues, but in the end the gargoyles are successful in destroying most of the high-powered weapons.

Spoiler: Broadway is relieved to find Elisa survives. In their meeting after the near-fatal accident Broadway apologizes, but so does Elisa, admitting fault for not safely securing her firearm.

I find this astonishing because both sides, victim and perpetrator admit fault. I am not aware of any other contemporary examples where a cartoon grapples seriously with a topic like guns, and it is true that in this instance, both parties are to blame.

This episode of Gargoyles would have aired before the Columbine shooting, which sadly would be the first of many of its kind. Here we are several months after a similar tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. How many needless school shootings have happened in the intervening years?

One could argue that it is best to be proactive when it comes to firearms education. I for one would prefer to discuss the topic with my kids proactively rather than as a reaction to a real-life instance of tragic gun violence.

The cartoon provides a larger perspective to see the whole story. It enables a viewer to bear witness to the circumstances that birthed the tragedy. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and an empathetic viewer will feel the agony of committing a dire mistake by embodying the childlike protagonist.

The lesson about guns in Gargoyles is easy enough for young children to understand. Quite simply: firearms in the home must be kept securely.

Laser rifles are a high-tech stand in for assault rifles, and they really have no place in civil society. They should be banished from the discussion just like their existence should be banished from everyday life, and in “Deadly Force” the laser rifles are reduced to a smoldering pile of metal. Only a few remain, mirroring the sad fact that there will likely always be illegal weapons in circulation.

I know it can seem out of touch to distill this debate to an allegory from a cartoon, but the fact of the matter is we need to teach children about firearms at some point: who should own guns, how they should be kept, and what they are really for.

The principles outlined in “Deadly Force” are common sense: make it impossible for people to get a high-tech rifle designed for mass killing. Other firearms must be kept securely, and anyone who wishes to own a firearm must be prepared to demonstrate responsibility and accountability at the highest level.

Dan Hahn is a English composition/rhetoric graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.