According to the Gun Violence Archive, 307 mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. so far in 2018. Numbers like that were likely on the mind of one woman on Facebook when she posted a photo of novelty holiday lights for sale at Walmart made of used shotgun shells.
In the wake of the shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday night, this kind of decoration appeared insensitive. Many on social media commented on the post, which was shared by multiple other accounts. Some, though, believed Cruz was overreacting to a decoration that’s been around for many years and is intended to celebrate hunting.
“They might be really tacky but they have absolutely nothing to do with the gun violence of 2018,” wrote @trinity_rymel on Instagram. “A lot of people hunt and since the Holidays are during the same time as hunting season it’s a very good sales tactic. Y’all are getting really mad for all the wrong reasons. Yeah it’s super redneck if you actually put these lights up but it’s not deplorable by any means. And Walmart isn’t the only place that sells these. There are a lot bigger problems than some fake $4.99 Christmas lights.”
While Walmart and other retailers sell this kind of novelty item, many enjoy making ornaments and other decorations with used shotgun casings. Pinterest and crafting sites are packed with suggestions of how to reuse the plastic and metal cylinders. It’s a confluence of a DIY, zero-waste lifestyle with gun culture that can’t be summed up and easily reacted to on social media.
Still, considering the prevalence of gun violence in this country, it’s hard now to separate the objects from their violent symbolism, particularly in contrast to the peaceful messages of the Christmas season.
“I just think that there has to be a different way to remember or commemorate grandpas, dads and other family members who were/are hunters,” wrote @nancysavage6788. “If nothing else how about they stay unlit this year in memory of the many that were lost in a horrific year of violence. Not that any year is more or less violent then any other year but it would be one very small gesture. Just think about it.”
There’s one more sinister reading of these items, as pointed out by another comment on Instagram: Using shotgun shells as Christmas decorations may be a reference to a twisted version of “Jingle Bells” that referred to killing African-Americans during the Civil Rights movement. Regardless of their original intent, that association might make buyers think twice about these lights.
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