Martha Thomases: Shooting at the Comic-Con?

This past week saw an uncomfortable convergence of political issues and Geek Culture. A man tried to enter the Phoenix Comic-Con in order to shoot someone, using cosplay as a disguise. Instead of artfully crafted fake weapons, this man had real weapons that would have caused real injury to real people.

The man appeared to be insane. He thought he was The Punisher and it was his mission to kill the Green Power Ranger.

In response, the convention banned prop weapons, at least for the duration of this show.

Needless to say, this completely wrecked the plans of any cosplayers whose outfits included prop weapons. A lot of them were disappointed that they couldn’t share the fruits of their hard work and financial investment with their friends.

I don’t think any of the cosplayers would say that their costumes were more important than the lives and safety of the other convention attendees. Still, I imagine they were disappointed at best, and perhaps felt it was unfair that they were under suspicion just because a crazy person represented himself as one of them.

It was unfair.

Cosplayers were not the only ones to suffer over the weekend. Dealers who sell to cosplayers lost money, not only because they couldn’t sell at the show, but could not quickly arrange to sell at another show. To their credit, the Phoenix Comic-Con seems to have tried to make things right, as best they could.

Unfortunately, this is the best we can hope for in our current political climate. As long as we refuse to invest the time and money on treating mental illness, we will continue to live with the untreated mentally ill. And as long as we refuse to implement even the slightest limits on access to firearms, the mentally ill will be able to buy all the guns (and bullets, and knives and swords) as they might wish to own. Or use.

But we won’t pass any laws that limit guns to people who can pass simple competency tests, much as we limit cars to people who can drive. We won’t say that, maybe, someone who thinks he has a relationship with the Green Power Ranger shouldn’t walk around armed in public, especially after he makes threats against police officers, too. As a country, we have decided that we’re more comfortable telling women what to do with their bodies than we are with protecting those same bodies from random bullets.

The cosplay community is not going to be able to solve this problem. I’m willing to bet the solution is beyond the greater geek community. People who want to dress up like their favorite fantasy characters, whether they be Ghostbusters or Jon Snow or Lobo are going to have to find ways to do so that don’t look realistic enough to be perceived as threats.

There might be a possible solution, and it might offer an opportunity for profit that is attractive enough for it to happen. If Nerf could up their game enough so that their toys look realistic, but can still be easily squished, they might be able to pass inspection. At least, as long as no 11-year old black kids in Cleveland don’t play with them.