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August 10 2019

Everybody does it.

That’s what we tell ourselves when we bend the rules. Everybody fibs about their weight, daily alcohol consumption, and favorite novel. (It’s never really Moby-Dick.) Everybody shades the truth on Tinder profiles and tax returns. In certain Zip Codes, we can almost understand how some parents persuade themselves that it’s O.K. to bribe a college-admissions officer: everybody else in Calabasas is greasing their child’s way into U.S.C. on a made-up varsity letter in lacrosse; they’d be saps to hold back. And let’s face it, anybody worth more than $50 million eventually claims a Florida residence—and not for the weather.

But who on earth goes to Treffen, Austria (population 4,400), to attend a 90th-birthday extravaganza for Gaston Glock, the inventor of the Glock pistol? Never mind that the festivities took place over the same weekend as the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. The Glock has been a handgun of choice for mass murderers for more than a decade. The nine men and women killed during a prayer service in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 were shot with a Glock pistol. So were the six killed outside of a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011—U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was one of the 13 left wounded that day. The Virginia Tech killer was armed with a Glock; the shooter at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, had a Glock. The list just goes on and on.

So, there really isn’t much about the Glock legacy to celebrate, unless you’re a Glock. And yet, amazingly, quite a few celebrities did, including ones who claim to promote gun control. In this issue, Stuart Heritage explains what drew the likes of Naomi Campbell, John Travolta, and Hugh Grant to the Glock party—and it was not for the weather.

It helps to be shameless. That’s what allows movie stars and American politicians to rise above common decency. (Think Donald Trump.) Boris Johnson became prime minister thanks to a uniquely English variation on shamelessness: freedom from embarrassment. Years ago, John Cleese tried to explain the affliction in the movie A Fish Called Wanda. (“You see, Wanda, we’re all terrified of embarrassment. That’s why we’re so … dead. Most of my friends are dead, you know, we have these piles of corpses to dinner.”) Harry Mount, who went to Oxford and admits he is deeply embarrassed by all kinds of things, reveals that his fellow alumnus Boris Johnson is not, and therefore isn’t a real Englishman at all.

To learn more, you should read AIR MAIL.

Everybody does.