Guns and People

IMG_8080Yesterday our nation witnessed a horrific event – the mass shooting of a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. There are many terrible things about this event. A) that it happened, B) that this event is only the latest in several hundred such shootings in the last year C) that LGBTQ people were targeted D) that Muslim people were reflexively blamed E) all the privilege dynamics…

F) that angry people everywhere immediately made the deaths of our brothers, sisters, children and friends about guns.

So then, I am writing to invite a perspective shift on everything related to gun violence, gun rights, gun sale regulations, etc.

The loud voices in the fights about gun control seem to come back to questions of, “Should private citizens be allowed to own guns?” and “Will there be any limits set on which types of guns can or should be sold to which kinds of persons?”

Instinctively, I do agree that I feel uncomfortable with the idea of the government and the military being the only ones allowed to legally bear arms. That in an unhealthy extreme that we should avoid.

Additionally, I have in my close circle of friends, several individuals who are private citizens who carry concealed weapons. At times, I think the gesture is overkill, but I also trust these individuals to be level-headed and responsible. If a situation arose where a gun was needed, I’d sure appreciate having one of them around.

On the other hand, I must point out the obvious – that guns are extremely powerful devices with arguably one purpose, that being to end life.

(If there is another legitimate purpose for a weapon to exist, I’d be genuinely interested to hear it in the comments.)

Being the powerful devices that they are, logically, the possession of such things is a tremendous responsibility. (Do I really need to revisit the lesson of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben?)

Take a quick look around. Responsibility, level-headedness, and rational thinking in the midst of crisis are in short supply. Added to that, pervasive attitudes of anger, hostility and objectification of persons is rampant everywhere. Add in some trauma and mental illness and I think we could safely say that, much as we want to love and embrace everybody, certain individuals are not actually able to responsibly and safely handle the power of a gun.

And this doesn’t have to be a discriminatory thing. We require people to read a manual and take a test before they can move metal objects weighing hundreds of pounds at speeds up to forty-five miles an hour less than twenty feet from sidewalks where toddlers and elders walk, and assume that they will generally not do this while under the influence of a psychoactive drug. Would a comparable screening process not be appropriate for ownership of a weapon?

Therefore, for those who loudly call for (any) stricter gun regulations, I’m with you.

This is generally as far as I hear the conversation go and here, either both sides lapse into irrational anger(at which point I hope neither of them has a gun) or the conversation ends pre-maturely.

Here’s my point. Violence is a problem, but guns(the devices themselves) are a symptom of a deeper problem.

If we took away guns altogether, we might indeed reduce the scope and intensity and lethality of violence, but we’re still left with a problem.

The would-be gun owner.

Last I checked, men, women and children were killing each other for thousands of years before guns were ever invented. One of the first recorded sins was murder. And when Cain killed Abel, no mention is made of how he did it, but the point is that he did it.

Killing, murder and violence do not require guns of any sort. They require a person with murderous intent, or extreme anger and lack of self-control, or some other internal driver.

Take away guns, we’ll resort to knives and swords. Take away sharp metal, we’ll find a way to use sticks and stones. Burn all of nature to the ground and lock us in a bunker with nothing but our bare hands, we’ll strike and choke the life out of each other.

More of my point is this. We probably should reform our gun laws, but if that’s all we do, then we’re missing the real issue. The real issue is people who, for whatever reason, believe they are justified in harming another person.

The conversations we ought to be having so vociferously are about racism, sexism, homophobia and religion.

The things we ought to be teaching our children could conclude with how to safely use a gun, but must begin with how to be compassionate, gentle, level-headed and emotionally tolerant people.

We don’t all need to agree with each other about religion, sex, race, politics or any other thing. We do need to be able to problem solve and resolve differences without trying to extinguish the other person.

So then, I submit that, while guns are (seriously) problematic, we don’t have a gun problem. We have a people problem. And if people don’t change, then all the gun reform laws in the world are meaningless.

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