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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Guns Not the Answer

I am amazed at the number of people who are saying that the only way to combat gun violence in the US is to arm every citizen to the teeth so that we can protect ourselves. Numerous voices have spoken out for a greater gun presence in our society not a reduced one. They argue that a reduced gun presence only protects those wishing to do harm not the innocents who get hurt in these shooting sprees as we saw in Aurora. Many have stated that if more people had been armed in the theater, then the shooter would not have been able to harm as many people as he did. I am stunned at this logic. Has anyone considered what it would be like to live in a society where the presence of weapons is everywhere and where armed citizens are taking issues into their hands? I will never understand why anyone thinks that a shooting spree could be avoided by another shooter. Violence begets violence and we will never find our way to a truly free and peaceful society if we perpetuate this mentality.
I personally do want to live in a country where everyone I encounter is armed. I lived in a violent, heavily armed city for two years of my life: Medellin, Colombia. I was there from 1986-1988 and in 1987 Time Magazine ran a cover story entitled 'Medellin, Colombia: The Most Dangerous City in the World.' The presence of armed guards was palpable throughout the city. Machine gun armed guards stood outside of my apartment building and other public areas. And guess what? Medellin was not a safe place to live. Bombings, kidnappings, and shootings were all part of my life while I lived there. Two men were gunned down on a motorcycle on the next street over from where I lived. I stumbled on the scene one morning while out walking. One afternoon my entire apartment building was shaken to its foundation because a bomb had gone off in my backyard. After two years of living in such a violent country, I began to have nightmares. Violent nightmares with people getting killed and lives being threatened. The presence of bloody, violent scenes being played out in my dream life night after night led to quite an anxious way of life. The toll of being surrounded by a violent presence was overwhelming at points. The presence of rifles and guns in my every day life did not make me feel safer.  The violence presence of weapons that surrounded me eventually manifested itself in ugly, disturbing ways in my psyche. And never once did I think that the solution to all this was to go get a gun.
So if we are going to promote the ideology that further arming the American public is the way to stop the crazies from shooting innocent people we have to understand what the fall out from this will be. Are you prepared to ask yourself, “Do I have my keys, lipstick and revolver” as you get ready for a night on the town? Are you really prepared to be the one who steps in and stops the violence that may unfold before your very eyes, knowing that you have killed another human being, no matter the circumstance? People very non-nonchalantly make the comment that if one other person in that theater had had a gun, the guy would not have been able to gun down the others in the theater. OK, maybe true, but what about that guy who steps up to gun down the shooter? You think he sleeps well after that? And the odds that innocent people get hurt in a shoot out are pretty high.  Most gun owners do have highly specialized training in killing another being or being able to perform well under great stress.  That is why this line of thinking will lead us to being a more nervous, traumatized, unable to sleep well at night culture. Promoting violent responses to violence will not lead to a more peaceful and free society. In fact, it enslaves us to fear and wondering. It creates a climate where people feel on edge and inevitably, accidents will happen. It foments an attitude that shooting another human being is OK if you feel your rights are being infringed upon or you fear that the other party will hurt you first. I cannot see myself enjoying living in a place where I have to wonder about the presence of a gun in every pocket. Yes, it is a great tragedy that people who are evil, mentally unstable, or simply enjoy inflicting harm on others have guns and will use them in in appropriate ways to hurt innocent people. But I will never believe that further arming the American public is the solution to the gun violence in America. Tighter regulation of who can obtain a firearm, where it can stored, how it can be used, and the type of guns made available are steps in the right direction. How we deal with the flood of weapons that are already out there on the street is a mystery that I have no answer to. But I know getting more weapons out there will not help us to create a more peaceful and free society. It undermines our freedom to think that the more heavily armed we all are, the better off we'll all be. In the end it all points us back to our culture and the type of environment we want to create for our citizens. The right to bear arms in our nation has become a ticket to do harm for many and it's time we changed that mentality. It's not just limiting access to guns that will do this. We need a total change of heart. A fresh look at the type of world we want to live in. A clearer understanding of the intention of the law makers when they wrote the 2nd amendment.  I do not understand why the church is not speaking out more clearly on the issue of gun violence and how the presence of guns in our society has created a culture of violence that is ruining any semblance to being one nation under God. How does the perpetration of violence through a mentality of increased weapon presence support our ability to be a loving and gracious presence in our society? I'm just not understanding why Christians aren't on the front lines seeking to clarify how we can maintain our 2nd amendment rights but protect the rights of those who wish to live in a more free and peaceful society. There must be a middle ground here somewhere. Perhaps the Christian community can find it and forge the way ahead.