The best-selling author made an unexpected charge into the national debate on gun violence on Friday with a passionate, angry essay pleading for reform.
King, who owns three handguns, aimed the expletive-peppered polemic at fellow gun-owners, calling on them to support a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the wake of the December shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school which left 20 children and six adults dead.
"Autos and semi-autos are weapons of mass destruction. When lunatics want to make war on the unarmed and unprepared, these are the weapons they use," King wrote.
"Here's how it shakes out," the essay begins, before describing 22 ritual steps in which the US experiences a school massacre. Excoriating the media and television voyeurism, he writes: "Sixteenth, what cable news does best now begins, and will continue for the next seventy-two hours: the slow and luxurious licking of tears from the faces of the bereaved."
King recalls that the fictional schoolboy killer in his 1977 novel Rage, which was published under a pen name, Richard Bachman, resonated with several boys who subsequently rampaged at their own schools. One, Barry Loukaitis, shot dead a teacher and two students in Moses Lake, Washington in 1996, then quoted a line from the novel: "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?"
King said he did not apologise for writing Rage – "no, sir, no ma'am" – because it told the truth about high-school alienation and spoke to troubled adolescents who "were already broken". However, he said, he ordered his publisher to withdraw the book because it had proved dangerous. He was not obliged to do so by law – it was protected by the first amendment – but it was the right thing to do. Gun advocates should do the same, he argued.
The idea that US gun rampages stem from a culture of violence was a "self-serving lie promulgated by fundamentalist religious types and America's propaganda-savvy gun-pimps", he wrote. In reality the US had a "Kardashian culture" which preferred to read and watch comedies, romances and super-heroes, rather than stories involving gun violence.
Much of the opposition to gun control stemmed from paranoia about the federal government, King argued. "These guys and gals actually believe that dictatorship will follow disarmament, with tanks in the streets of Topeka."
He assured gun owners that no one wanted to take away their hunting rifles, shotguns or pistols, as long as they held no more than 10 rounds. "If you can't kill a home invader (or your wife, up in the middle of the night to get a snack from the fridge) with ten shots, you need to go back to the local shooting range."
The mockery continued when he noted semi-automatics had only two purposes: to kill people, and to let their owners go to a shooting range, "yell yeehaw, and get all horny at the rapid fire and the burning vapor spurting from the end of the barrel".
Ooh, I like that last part! You know as frightened as the NRA is of Gabby Giffords, I would advice them to be equally concerned about Stephen King.
King is easily the most popular, and prolific, American writer of the last fifty years, and has a huge fan base, many of whom I am sure consider themselves to be proud gun owners.
To have him write, as only he can, in such a confrontational manner is going to make some people really have to evaluate why they support allowing access to these types of weapons, and possibly even why they themselves feel the need to own one.
Hell if Stephen King can make someone like me terrified of St. Bernard dogs and clowns named Pennywise, I am sure he can frighten some sense into people about gun violence. Though after what happened at Sandy Hook I am not sure how much more frightening things have to become before people wake up to what is happening in this country.