Why I Got an Unregistered Gun

Rufus E. Miles, Jr. was a bureaucrat at the federal Bureau of the Budget in the 1940s when he formulated what has come to be known as Miles’ Law, namely, “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” meaning your view on an issue will vary according to your self-interest and the particular position you occupy in life.

And so it is with gun control. I live in a state with tough gun laws, and I appreciate whatever contribution they make to the tranquility of life that I enjoy here, from the sandy shores of Cape Cod to the rolling hills of the Berkshires.

You’ll come for the beaches, you’ll stay for the dead sharks!


But recently I decided that it was time for me to get an unregistered gun.

After all, I’m a playwright.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s what’s wrong with this country. No matter how tough we make our gun laws, it’s those cretinous goober states that will let a dramatist with a lengthy record of prior absurdist plays buy an unregistered weapon at a gun show and bring it into Massachusetts.

Go Ubu-go!


As Louis Brandeis, a Boston lawyer who made it all the way to the Supreme Court, would say, the states are laboratories of democracy. Vive la différence. That’s what makes this country great.

Louis Brandeis


It may surprise you to learn that playwrights need guns, registered or unregistered, but it’s true. Guns have been used as props in the theatre at least since Christopher Marlowe’s 1604 play The Tragicall Life and Death of Dr. Faustus. In Shakespeare’s plays Henry IV and Henry V there is a character named “Pistol” who uses one.

Christopher Marlowe, wearing Timberwolves “throwback” warmup jacket


Death by shooting is common in the theatre, from Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler to Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. There’s an aborted duel in Shaw’s Arms and the Man. Pick up a collection of Eugene O’Neill’s plays and you’ll find gunplay to be his favorite form of third act resolution.

O’Neill: “Let’s see, how do I get my characters off the stage?  I know–a gun!”


There’s even a dramatic principle involving firearms, known as “Chekhov’s Gun,” restated by one of his protégés as follows; “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” Clear, simple, and concise rules are what we need in the area of fake gun control, not a lot of hyperventilating.

Chekhov:  “Everybody check you gun–somebody’s got mine.”


Happily, you can purchase a starter’s pistol for either athletic or thespic purposes here without the muss and fuss of registration, fingerprinting or background checks. Your local chief of police has no power to stop you from shooting as many fictional characters as you want. The days of Banned in Boston are over.

“Run!  Somebody’s shooting at us!”


Once you have a starter’s pistol you’re also in a position to assist people who want to race each other. Without a starter, the opportunities to cheat with a “false start” are just too great. With an armed official supervising, only the most foolhardy sprinters will “jump the gun.” Order is restored.

So I’ll be using my starter’s pistol in the performance of An Interview With Père Ubu, to be performed this fall in Cambridge, Mass.  There will be gunfire.

The amazing thing to me now that I have a pistol prop is how instinctively people are able to tell that it’s not a real firearm, only a starter’s pistol.

All I have to do is fire it and people start running.