The Grizzly Ate Your Baby

Several years back, my buddy and I made a wrong turn on the way to Virginia. Appalachia is the kind of place with towns called Tightsqueeze, so you’ll understand that any wrong turn is the kind of mistake that can have lasting consequences.

On a previous adventure we ended up at convenience store in after-dark hours. No one could pay because the credit card machines didn’t work. We stood in the parking lot with some tired carnies as situations that required no escalation escalated to the point of people threatening to pull out their weapons. I was hoping this trip would go better, or at the very least have no threats of gunplay.

Actual home of the gas station sandwich

On this sunny summer afternoon a year later, my hungry friend ate a gas station sandwich as we looked out across the foreign landscape and wondered if we’d ever make it to our destination. We pressed on, sure if we kept the suns at our back, no carnies could catch us.

I tell you that to tell you how we killed the additional hours in the car creating a March Madness style bracket of vicious animals, pitting them against each other in a fight to the death, all along reminding ourselves that, of course, we would never be so inhumane as to sanction one of these matches (no matter how much we’d like to see certain people in the octagon with 17 rats).

If you are in any way familiar with my friends and me, you might have seen this debate playing out online or over the top of some empty beer glasses: of the two certain championship match contestants, would the Grizzly or the Silverback Gorilla win in a fight to the death? (Don’t @ me with your answer because there is only one answer, and I’m so firmly on Team Grizzly that our relationship is going to change if you sign on the Gorilla squad. Ignore the signing bonus they offer. Those people are bananas.)

The car ride, while ridiculous in just about every way, passed much faster as we finished our brackets and then played them out to the clear conclusion that the Grizzly is almost always going to win. You might have some crazy bloodshed and violence along the way. That Polar Bear might get in a couple of lucky shots. The capybara might show up angry and school the anaconda on what it means to be the world’s largest living rodent. But if you let the game play out a million times, that Grizzly is going to be your winner the vast majority of the time. Don’t argue with science.


You might be surprised to know that despite my deep interest in hypothetical bloodshed and the worst of nature’s malevolence, I am particularly opposed to sanctioned death matches in the real world. I am pro-life in the most literal sense. I really, really hate seeing people die, and I especially hate it when it’s something preventable. Heart attacks are gonna get ya. Cancer is gonna get ya. A grandpa who forgot for five seconds that he was driving a car is gonna get ya. Not a great deal you can do about it.

And yes, if you live in America, every once in a while, a bullet is gonna get ya. There are so many of them flying on any given day, we’d be running against expectation if we all managed to dodge them all the time. Remember, guns don’t kill people. Amendments kill people.

Nevertheless, if I cut back on the sodium and stop trying to make cheese sausage out of my arteries, I might just beat a cardiac event. If I lay off the smokes and asbestos facials, I can probably ward off most of the cancer. And if keep clear of public places like schools, nightclubs, movie theaters, military bases, and concerts, I might stand a chance of not getting shot.

Oh, you thought this essay was about how animals might hypothetically kill each other? No, no, no. This is about how animals actually kill each other with the help of other animals and how hiding is the only prevention measure the innocents are currently offered.

Sorry if you were misinformed. You might want to reconsider your sources. I understand there is a lot of Fake News! out there.


By now, you’ve picked your camp in the “we have to find a way to stop our kids from getting killed” debate. Getting you to cross a line to one side or another is probably a fool’s errand. The arguments have become so entrenched that they need their own guns and C-rations. It’s mental health. It’s gun control. It’s arming teachers. It’s turning schools into safe rooms. It’s muskets. It’s amendments. It’s a guy carrying an AR-15 into Target, because America and irony.

It’s “well, if you’re gonna ban guns then ban X.”

And that argument, friends, is why I’m here with my bloodthirsty animals.

If you find yourself in a gun control argument and lead with, “Cars kill as many people as guns every year. Why don’t you ban those, too?” then you have wasted your one opportunity to be heard as an intellectually honest person. You don’t actually believe in this false equivalence, and if you do, you should really consider reallocating the money you plan to spend on your next case of ammo on a logic class at your local community college. You had one shot at the King, and you missed way damned wide. You are…well, take a good look in the mirror: you are LarryTimeBandit.

I can’t give ol’ Larry the respect of thinking he planned his intellectual dishonesty, partly because he’s clearly unable to form a rational thought, and partly because if he really were a Time Bandit he could probably do something about the fact that his cause has been tainted by the senseless deaths of thousands of people. I mean, if I were a gun festishist and a Time Bandit, I’d be spending my downtime going back in time to re-route the Adam Lanzas of the world to less dangerous insanity. Maybe teach them how to play a musical instrument or, better, how to join the ranks of Gun Loving Time Bandits Against the Senseless Death of America’s Childred. Larry doesn’t do that, so I’m going to assume he is rationally challenged, likes guns, eats steak, and never got around to sentence diagrams school.

You, however–since you’ve made it through about 1,000 words of this missive on killin’—probably have the ability to think before you speak.

You have the ability to know that it’s incredibly disingenuous to equate the premeditated murder of dozens of people with the carelessness of a driver on I-85.

You know that it’s incredibly disingenuous to equate an addiction epidemic propped up by American corporations with a kid stealing one of his dad’s AR-15s, making a list, checking it twice, posting it on Instagram, and then killing as many people as he can.

Hell, if you really stopped and thought about it for longer than an NRA commercial, you might also be able to admit that someone with 1,000 bullets, several extended clips, and a semi-automatic weapon outfitted with a bump stock can kill lots more people at a time than a guy who has to reload every few shots.

Listen, I hear your genuine arguments. Taking all guns away from Americans is a non-starter. America has the 2nd Amendment. You’re never going to get every gun. Hunting is an American tradition. Target shooting is fun. There are bad people who want to kill us and we have to protect ourselves. Cool. We can work with those.

What we can’t work with, however, is your insistence that because there are capybaras and anacondas in the world that we must also give everyone a pet Grizzly Bear and let them take it to school with them.

Because that would just be stupid, right?

What we’re talking about here is a matter of efficiency. You put an anaconda in a classroom, it’s probably gonna take at least one person out, and that would be a tragedy we would have to address. Mrs. Maples is no longer allowed to have an anaconda as a class pet. Sorry.

But after Sir Snake choked out one kid, Mrs. Maples and her third graders are either going to wrestle that son of a bitch into submission or…I dunno, casually walk to the gymnasium and ask Coach Slotboom to deal with the snake in Room 237.

But you put a Grizzly in a classroom, you’re going to have a whole bunch of dead kids, and you’re going to have a lot of moms asking, “Why did you let a Grizzly in my classroom? Why are you selling Grizzlies at Cabelas? Why is the marching band auctioning off a Grizzly? I’d demand an answer, but I’m currently being mauled by a Grizzly my kid won at a travel baseball game.”

Grizzly Bears are efficient killers. Anacondas are not. It’s why SWAT teams and military fighters carry the Grizzly Bear of weapons: they are the easiest and most efficient way to kill the enemy. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, and you don’t bring a snake to war.

You have perhaps convinced yourself that all deadly weapons are equal. Maybe you let your neighbor spout the statistic the car wrecks kill as many people as guns do every year and didn’t bother to ask him how many of those car deaths were premeditated murder and how many were Laney Tottenhaus checking her Snapchat on the way through a red light. That’s fine. Ignorance is bliss, and, as a bonus, really damned bloody apparently.

Maybe you heard about a wackjob with a machete who carved up a few people on the street. Terrible story. Did you hear the one about the guy who purchased as many bullets and guns as he wanted, camped out in a resort hotel, and shot hundreds of people before anyone had a chance to say, “I’m glad I paid my NRA dues. Am I right or am I right?”

Or, if you are too dull to deal with a way-too-extended metaphor, let me try this one on you: if you want gun control advocates to listen to you, you have to prove you are smarter than this false equivalence and you have to prove you can debate with intellectual honesty. Otherwise you aren’t part of the discussion anymore. You are just a robot soldier in a dullard army of a well-funded enemy that doesn’t care how many kids die as long as the money keeps flowing as fast as the blood.


There will be those who have read this far and think, “Well, yeah, the Grizzly is bad, but that Gorilla is pretty bad ass, too, and, if I’m reading Brad right here, the Gorilla is the cars, drugs, and steak knives. So, maybe he’s the one who needs a little education. Brad wants to ban steak knives!”

Lest you walk away and try to parrot this like a list of NRA talking points, let me make it clear: your car, your drugs, and your fucking steak knife are not the Silverback Gorilla.

The Gorilla is the Grizzly with a dozen fewer bullets. Your steak knife is the 17 rats.

And your kid…well, he’s the man with the spear…except he doesn’t have a spear and you’re flooding the streets with Grizzly Bears.

Good luck with that bracket, kid. You’re never making it out of the first round.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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7 Responses

  1. Robert Woolley says:

    “If you find yourself in a gun control argument and lead with, “Cars kill as many people as guns every year. Why don’t you ban those, too?” then you have wasted your one opportunity to be heard as an intellectually honest person. ”

    That is certainly used as a thoughtless, fatuous argument with distressing frequency. But it need not be. There *is* an actual, intellectually honest point behind it, even if many parroting it don’t understand what it is.

    If you take the “why don’t you ban cars?” question and actually answer it, I think the only answer you can end up with, if we’re all being intellectually honest here, is this: “The convenience of cars is worth having 35,000 Americans a year die for it, including 2000 children.” I urge you to say those words out loud, right now. Really–go ahead and do it. Because, unless I’m missing something big, that’s what you *have* to accept as your values. Your convenience at being able to get around quickly and easily, your freedom to go wherever you want whenever you want, is worth having 35,000 of your fellow citizens a year die for.

    We could change that, and it wouldn’t even require banning cars. We could impose a nationwide 20 mph speed limit, or even mandate mechanical/electronic governors on cars so that they physically *couldn’t* go more than 20 mph, even on interstates. That would eliminate nearly all traffic deaths, virtually overnight. Would you sign on to such a plan? I think most of us wouldn’t–even though we’d still have our cars and the freedom to go wherever we want whenever we want, just taking more time to do so. Why? Again, say it out loud: Because we value our personal convenience and time saving over the 35,000 lives–including those of 2000 children.

    Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Maybe even barbarian? Deranged? Sociopathic? But it’s true, isn’t it?

    So the real point of the “why don’t we ban cars” question is to get you to stop and think about what things we value more than tens of thousands of lives. Among those things are “convenience and saving time.” And once you admit that you really do value those things more than all the loves lost, once you admit that you actively, voluntarily sign up for that trade-off every day of your life, I think it becomes harder (if you’re intellectually honest) to ridicule or dismiss what people serious about guns value so much that they’re willing to make a roughly equivalent deal with death to keep it.

    Now, you may be inclined to scoff at their answers–things like “stopping the home intruder,” or “guarding against the rise of tyranny,” or even, “it’s fun to shoot holes in paper targets.” But when you make yourself explicitly aware of being complicit in trading 35,000 lives a year in order to gain mere convenience and time saving, doesn’t it make you at least a little more hesitant to pooh-pooh what other people put on the scales against a similar number of lives?

    That’s the point of the argument, as I see it. And I believe it has genuine merit as a thought exercise.

  2. Robert Woolley says:

    Incidentally, I did read your whole essay before responding, and I do recognize that what I’m responding to isn’t your main point. I also know that it’s annoying to have a reader go off about a minor aside, as if he has missed the central thrust of your piece. And for that, apologies.

  3. Robert, going with your metaphor, the gun control side isn’t demanding that we force cars to have governors installed to limit them to 20 mph in order to save lives. They are asking for the introduction of traffic signals, speed limits, drivers licenses, and road signs. They want some level of rational rules of the road.

  4. Steve says:

    Robert, there would be countless more automotive deaths if cars and drivers were regulated like guns and gun owners. Driving requires training before licensing. Cars are registered and insured. Automobile companies have safety regulations they must meet and can be sued. Speed limits and seat belt laws are akin to asking gun owners to acquiesce to fingerprint locks and other tech, or limits on clip capacity. We’re all willing to live with a certain amount of gun violence and accidents just like we know the human cost of those cars (although eliminating cars would just lead to a rise in deaths from other conveyances). The problem is when people ask us to deal with an absurd amount of preventable gun violence and accidents.

  5. Rich says:

    Hi Brad. I, of course, agree with Robert above.
    I am sorry to say that I don’t find this to be your best work. I feel your passion, but in attempting to push down the pro-gun straw-men, you just introduce them yourself.
    I would suggest you take a look at the gun-control regime that I live under. I am in the Chicago area and we have some of the tightest controls in the country. As a gun owner, I am required to have a Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) on my person at all times. Being a FOID holder means that every single night at midnight my background is run through the NICS. If during that day I had committed a violent crime or had a retraining order placed against me-regardless of due process-or am adjudicated as mentally unfit, the sheriff will be dispatched to my house-no warrant needed-with the right to enter and confiscate all guns on the premises. There are, of course, 4A implications of this, but that is for another conversation.
    The point I wan’t to make here is that Illinois has, arguably, the tightest control on background checks in the country. In fact, I would assert that what happened in Florida could not have happened here, in the way it happened, in that the dude (I will not write his name) was the legal owner of his weapon. He would not have been able to retain his weapon here in Illinois.
    You take that, though, and then realize that Chicago is top four in the nation for gun violence. 17 kids dead? That is a Tuesday. You don’t hear about it in your news because covering Chicago violence brings up too many inconvenient facts that aren’t comfortable to discuss in PC society.
    But the bottom line is that despite a model law that controls legal access to guns by violent or mentally unfit, we have more gun violence than most other places in our country. The issue, of course, being that people that are going to obey the law aren’t the people that are going to go out and shoot people in the first place. (OK, crimes of passion and such, I will give you, but the rate is very, very low.)
    So if this young man had wanted to do what he did here, he would have to do it illegally. He would not be able to legally own his gun. He would not be legally able to buy ammo. Do you think that would have kept him from doing it? I certainly do not.

  6. JannStefan says:

    There is an old story of an easterner who asks a Glacier Park Ranger if there are any bears in the area. Ranger: Yes, we have black bear and Grizzlies. Black bears are generally not a problem but grizzlies are dangerous. Tourist: How do I protect myself? Ranger: Carry pepper spray and wear jingle bells. Tourist: How do I know if there are grizzlies in the area? Ranger: You look at the spoor and if you see jingle bells and it smells of pepper spray, grizzlies are in the area.

  7. Grange says:


    Your point about Illinois is inaccurate. It’s not that Illinois’ gun laws are a failure, it’s that Illinois is surrounded by states with weak gun laws. Over 60% of guns used in Illinois crimes originate outside the state.

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