Friday, December 14, 2012

Why the Idolization of Guns?

Like many , I'm mystified by the American adoration of the gun.  I understand its purpose and I'm not opposed to hunting.  After all, I grew up in Northern California and Southern Oregon, where hunting and fishing are beloved pastimes.  I'm not not a hunter, but I understand its attraction.  I can even understand the felt need to protect oneself that leads people to purchase guns.

I understand the reasons why some have guns, what mystifies me is the gun as idol.  The Second Amendment has been interpreted in such a way that the possession of a gun is a sacred act.  This leads to what I think are unreasonable freedoms.  Many gun ownership advocates seem to believe that any restriction or any effort to keep track of gun sales is an infringement on sacred freedoms.  But, is this a reasonable approach?

This week a young man walked into a crowded mall in suburban Portland, Oregon with a stolen semi-automatic weapon, killing two others before killing himself.  It's just the latest such act of violence to hit our communities.  Interestingly, this act of violence seems to have been committed by a young man who by all reports had never gotten in trouble, but who seems to have suffered some kind of emotional trauma in recent days, and chose this way out of life.  

Even as we've been taking in this report, trying to figure out why, the Michigan legislature was at work passing bills that sought to water down the ability of the police to track gun sales, do background checks, and even allow persons to carry concealed weapons in previously forbidden territory -- schools, hospitals, and religious buildings such as churches, mosques, synagogues  and Temples.  Apparently the NRA didn't get all it wanted -- the background checks remain in the law -- but it got more than enough.  

And as these events were transpiring, I've been participating as a member of the Gun Violence Task Force of the Metropolitan Coalition of Congregations.  We've been trying to find a a way of effectively responding to the political forces that make guns more and more available, while at the same time lifting up the "sacred right" of gun possession.  Our task is not easy.  Our voices get drowned out.  But we will continue on.  We're in the process of drafting a letter to the Governor asking that he not sign the bill ending gun-free zones.          After all, shouldn't there be places where violence is not present?  

A question needs to be asked -- why are we so beholden to political forces that have deemed this to be a sacred right?  Why can't we have a reasonable conversation and come to a reasonable solution?

It's time for us to stop arguing over whether it's people or guns that kill.  The point is, guns are the most effective and efficient means of killing.  Some guns are more effective than others at achieving this goal, and some guns are designed only to kill large numbers of people.  So can we not agree that some guns shouldn't be in the possession of the general populace?  Shouldn't there be limits on the amount of ammunition a person can purchase and load into a gun?  A gun with a clip holding 100 bullets isn't really useful in self-defense and it's obviously not useful for hunting.  

Come, let us reason together, and emerge with laws that will help eliminate the kind of violence that occurred in a suburban Portland mall as well as that which happens daily in a large urban area like Detroit.   

Update (Dec. 14, 12:52 PM EST):  After I posted this reflection this morning word has come that a gunman came to a Connecticut elementary school, shooting and killing persons, including children at the school, before being shot (shooting himself).  At the time of the update, we still don't know the whole story, but it is a reminder that gun violence can hit anywhere.  What should our response be?

Further upate (12/14.12; 1:26 PM).  It now looks as if there is a large death toll -- mostly children.  When will America wake up?  Will this be the trigger event?



David said...

"Will this be the trigger event?" hmm... you had me at "when will we wake up".

New slogan for both political sides.

if no gun control, don't we need people control?

We just need to stop stigmatizing and having any barriers to treatment.

Rial Hamann said...

The "right" of a "well trained militia" to bare arms. So be it. Grant the privlidge to carry and bare single shot muzzle loaders.

Robert Cornwall said...


You've put your finger on one very important issue -- the stigmatizing of people with mental illness and the barriers we put up to mental health treatment.

That will have to be part of the conversation!

David said...

I love mentally Ill people. They usually have a fresh prospective on life. Rial, did you copy and paste last year's gun control response? Kidding. We need to progress. We aren't immune to mass violence. Yes, this is a serious, deeper issue. Can anyone deny it brewing in some circles? The paranoid mind controlled pseudo militia and survivalists? They exist. I've met more than I wish to over the years.

David said...

Muzzle loaders are suicide. We should be allowed to bear, bear guns. If'n we live in da' up' eh'?