It's always "too soon" to talk about gun violence in the United States, but it's not too soon to mix guns and Christmas. Walmart sells Christmas tree lights made to look like red and green shotgun shells. Online shoppers can buy Christmas ornaments made from real bullet casings. Maybe that was funny a generation ago, but incorporating guns into the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth seems in poor taste for a nation mourning 26 Christians shot to death while peacefully worshipping with their thoughts and prayers at a Texas church.
In this season of peace and love, one online gift suggestion is a T-shirt sold on Amazon that features the image of a pistol and the words, "If Jesus had a gun, he'd be alive today." Another sports a "Guns don't kill people. I kill people" message.
"Oh, my God," gasps Wayne Wagner, 75, a lifelong gun advocate from Arlington Heights, who has been a reasonable and helpful source for decades whenever I write about guns. "You and I might disagree on the proper place for handguns or concealed carry, but I can't justify any of that stuff."
We chat by phone Wednesday as Wagner says he is scouting out a forest near Galena, looking for antler marks on trees in the hope of finding the best spot to kill "Bambi" later this month.
A retired English teacher and debate coach at Rolling Meadows High School, Wagner also coached his Arlington High School trapshooting teams to state and national titles in the early 1980s.
He and his son generally bring back enough venison (hidden from sight because he realizes that strapping a deer to the bumper might offend some people) to feed family and friends and contribute to the "Jerky for Troops" program he started with the Northwest Towns Sportsmen's Club.
Wagner takes his guns seriously. That's not the case for some gift guides for the gun-lover.
Gun-control advocates were appalled that the Las Vegas massacre shooter (still too soon?) owned 47 guns and had thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Gun-lover gift guides counter that with, "'I have too many guns,' said no one ever."
Wagner and I both are offended by the variety of coffee mugs and T-shirts selling on Amazon that boast, "I lubricate my guns with liberal tears."
After the gunman shot an 18-month-old baby, a pregnant mom, eight in a family, old people and others at that Texas church, Mr. T tweeted: "Even though I am sort of A Tough Guy, I am crying because All the Senseless Violence."
That church gunman used an AR-556, a type of AR-15, which critics contend is not needed by hunters, sportsmen, people protecting themselves or anyone who isn't fighting a war. This suggested gift coffee mug disagrees: "Nobody needs an AR-15? Nobody needs a whiny, little (expletive) either, yet here you are."
A "Freeze!" ice-cube tray produces cubes in the shape of a gun and urges users to "pop a cap in your glass." A mold lets you cook an egg in the shape of an AK-47. The cylinder from a six-shooter can be bought as a pencil holder to store a "bolt-action" pen. You can get your kid's name on a plaque where each letter is made from guns and ammunition belts, or buy that wooden puzzle game popular at Cracker Barrel, but with bullet casings replacing golf tees.
Plenty of places sell alarm clocks that shut off when you shoot them with a laser gun. If you don't love the smell of napalm in the morning, you can buy candles that smell like gunpowder. You can gaze out the window at a garden gnome brandishing an AK-47 as you drink coffee from a gun-shaped mug that makes it look as if you are holding a gun to your head every time you take a sip.
But it wouldn't be Christmas without prayer, and one gun-lovers gift suggestion includes a plaque with a prayer that ends with the plea, "Let me die in a pile of empty brass."
There are debates to be had about who can buy guns, how many, what kind and where they can take them.
"We can do that without being disagreeable," says Wagner. "Without being insensitive."