A Lee Judge cartoon published in the Kansas City Star nearly a month ago has sparked outrage after going viral last week. The cartoon depicts a grave site with a headstone labeled, “American Sniper” with a caption that reads, “If only there had been a good guy with a gun around.” The cartoon was a response to the death of a Navy SEAL and a friend by an individual who is alleged to be a war veteran with mental illness. The caption is a reference to a comment by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre who said “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Before I go further, I need to address the completely unacceptable tenor of the majority of the early messages The Star received. Most of them were profane and many directly threatened violence to Judge or his editors. That type of vile conduct demeans the sincere and rational objections that sane and civil readers can rightly have to such a pointed piece of commentary.
Back to the cartoon. There’s no question that many people objecting to it misunderstood Judge’s point. Some thought it was implying that Kyle was one of LaPierre’s “bad guys” himself. And some people were unaware of LaPierre’s statement so they simply interpreted the grave and headstone as a stark reminder of Kyle’s violent death.
But many understood and just plain disagreed. The prevailing sentiment from many civil readers I spoke with was articulated well by Courtney Anderson: “Doing this so soon after the death of Chris Kyle is just insensitive. There’s a time and place for it.”