Don't bring your rocket launcher to school, kids

School is still weeks away, so you have plenty of time to talk to your youngsters about what not to do when classes reconvene in the fall. I suggest you start the conversation this way: "Doofus, we love you, but if you take a weapon to school after you've been warned not to, we're sending you off to military school -- and not our military."


Don't put off this talk, parents, because you know that in the next school term, there will be headlines roughly every other day about some 40-watter taking a gun, knife, grenade and other implement of destruction to class, and you don't want your child to be one of those dim bulbs to make such a career move.

It's a sign of the times, I know, but you simply can't take an Army rocket launcher to school anymore, as I did in the eighth grade.

No one ever had to tell us, "Don't bring a rocket launcher to school," because even if we did, we had no intentions of taking prisoners or blasting the school to bits. Decades before the Supreme Court ruled it was perfectly all right for kids to buy and play violent video games, we knew which end of a weapon was dangerous and what could happen if we used that end on somebody.

That's why, when I took that 40mm single-shot rocket launcher to school, no teacher reported me to the principal and no principal reported me to the police. That olive-drab battlefield weapon was simply part of an informal show-and-tell, a chance to say, "Hey, guys, look what I've got!"

The launcher looked and worked like a bazooka. It was a fiberglass, telescoping tube with fold-out shoulder support and sights. After the built-in rocket was fired, the soldier was to beat the weapon against a rock or tree to destroy it. Obviously, the one I took to school had been spent.

I had borrowed it from my brother, who was getting ready to go to Vietnam, and he had borrowed it from his training camp in Kansas. He had flown it back to Georgia in his suitcase, along with several grenades -- another example of changing times.

We were a country school, and weapons were as second-nature to us as pickup baseball games and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. All the boys carried pocketknives, and we used them at recess to play mumbletypeg or chop sorghum cane into edible lengths or sharpen our pencils.

In earlier grades, we had taken cap pistols to class, and we often had flips (slingshots) in the back pocket of our jeans. If we found a neat stick in the woods beyond the playground, we walked around with it as an all-purpose toy-weapon-tool. It was all a part of childhood.

Changing times have brought the bad with the good, however, and kids have been yanked from class for having nail files and toy soldiers. Anyone taking a rocket launcher to class in 2011 would not graduate until his prison time had been served, so parents, have that talk now.



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