Why retiring the gun emoji isn't as silly as it sounds.

Starting in September, Apple will make another update to its iconic and useful emojis.

As part of the update, the company is getting rid of the pistol emoji and replacing it with a green water gun.


While Apple hasn't officially addressed the reasons for the swap, it seems pretty clear that, after another year filled with horrific gun violence, the company is responding in some small way to America's frustration with gun culture.


Before I continue, let's get one thing straight:

No, of course swapping the pistol emoji for a water gun is not going to solve America's gun problem.

Obviously.

You will never see a news story with the headline: "New Water Gun Emoji Directly Responsible for Decline in Gun Violence."

HOWEVER...

Ask yourself another question: "Is one person recycling water bottles going to solve global warming?" No, of course not.

Is recycling those water bottles still the right thing to do? Will it still help make a small dent of progress in the face of an overwhelming challenge? Yes.

Like it or not — emojis are a big part of our cultural lingo.

They're not the biggest, most important, or most central part of our culture, but millions of people use them regularly to communicate, laugh, make plans, and occasionally to represent body parts ("Peach and eggplant emoji" to you as well, good sir).

Photo by Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images.

Which is why emojis have been updated on multiple occasions to better represent the times we're in.

In 2015, a variety of skin tones were added to help represent people of different races, same-sex couples and families were added to help represent people of different sexual orientations, and this latest update will also include a pride flag and a more diverse array of female emojis, after an official bid from Google.

There's nothing wrong with adding and changing emojis to be more representative of the things we talk and care about, while also acknowledging that the cartoon keyboard in our phones is not the axis on which the most critical conversations of our culture turn.

But I digress. Back to the revolver emoji. It's already pretty troubling.

Aside from being yet another byproduct of our gun-obsessed culture, the gun emoji has been a key factor in a few real-life incidences in which the police got involved.

In February 2016, a 12-year-old got in trouble with the police after posting a message on Instagram containing the gun emoji along with the bomb and knife emoji. In Brooklyn, New York, a teenager was arrested on terror charges after making a perceived threat to police officers using emojis. His charges were eventually dropped.

No word yet on the swords or the clearly dangerous chemistry set. Screengrab of iPhone emojis taken on my phone.

As far as people being frustrated at gun culture, though, you probably don't need reminding that 2016 has been as close to a tipping-point year as we've ever had in recent memory.

Multiple police-involved shootings, a horrific massacre at a nightclub in Orlando, an outright attack on the Dallas Police Department, and hundreds of mass-shooting deaths have created an environment where lawmakers are (finally, maybe, possibly, hopefully) ready to step up and do something.

Rep. John Lewis speaking to the press during his gun control protest in June 2016. Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images.

There was a 15-hour filibuster on gun control after the Orlando shooting as well as a congressional sit-in led by civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis.

People have also been taking out their frustration toward the lack of action on gun control in little ways, like defacing posters for the film "Jason Bourne," which prominently feature actor Matt Damon holding a gun.


People have had it with a culture that consistently fetishizes and glorifies guns, and replacing the gun emoji with a water pistol is a small way to lessen the presence of guns in daily conversation.

No, the water pistol emoji isn't going to solve America's problem with gun violence, or make you dinner, or tie your shoes for you, or make "True Detective" great again, or anything else.

We still need to work on gun control. We still need to stand up to gun lobbyists and politicians and others who stand by, complicit, as gun violence continues to claim more lives in America than anywhere else in the world.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

In the meantime, we can also appreciate that the revolver emoji is now a more fun and less deadly water pistol.

It's a small gesture that shows that we, as a people, with our incredible technology and advanced methods of communication, don't need a little cartoon gun to live our lives or communicate with each other.

via Jules Lipoff / Twitter

Weronika Jachimowicz, 17, is getting a lot of attention for subverting people's expectations of who excels in high school. And that's exactly what she wants.

Jachimowicz was named New York's Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District's 2021 salutatorian. Her yearbook photo next to valedictorian Luke Altman is going viral because of her dramatic Goth makeup and attire.

It all started when assistant professor and writer Dr. Jules Lipoff tweeted out a photo of the valedictorian and salutatorian he saw in a newspaper and it went viral. How many salutatorians have you seen that wear pentagram hoop earrings, a choker, and black devil horns?

The juxtaposition of her next to the bowtie-wearing Altman, makes the photo even more amusing.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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