“Guns Don’t Kill People”

OK, so what if we accepted that “guns don’t kill people, people do”? Just for the record, I don’t happen to accept that premise, since guns kill people a whole lot more efficiently than, say, knives or fists, but never mind. Let’s just take it as a starting place.

Isn’t it just possible that our culture of guns encourages people to kill people? Mightn’t the fact that it is legal in many states to carry concealed weapons to the grocery store or to church create an expectation that we NEED guns wherever we go? Might it be possible that memes like the picture going around Facebook of a gun holstered under a steering wheel as an anti-carjacking device teach us that the solution to being hurt or scared or offended or threatened is respond with lethal force?

Perhaps people do feel more secure carrying guns about, but it is a security based on the assumption that the solution to fear of violence is to escalate the violence. Maybe the guns themselves aren’t the root of the problem. Maybe the guns are the effect of an assumption that the way to feel safe is to become more dangerous ourselves. Maybe the ever more rampant violence is bred by a culture that says that if you have been offended, if you are hurting, then the solution is to make those who offended you pay.

What if we didn’t have the guns to back us up in that belief? What if we all had to admit that there are situations in which we are powerless or terrified or ill-treated, and there is, ultimately, nothing we can do about it? What if we had to accept that life is dangerous in more ways than we can count, and that pain and, ultimately, death is inevitable? Might we then come to a little more compassion for our fellow human beings who all share this lot in life? Might we learn to address our pain in ways that are more constructive—or at least less damaging to those around us? Might we try to find solutions to some of the systemic problems that drive people toward desperation? Might we, just as a “for instance,” learn to teach our young men that striking back is not an available option, let alone one that our culture admires?

Isn’t it time that churches started taking seriously Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek, and consider what that might mean for our society? God knows it’s time for some leadership to come from somewhere.

  • http://terrific.it David Wadleigh

    This very week a neighbor less than a block from here arrived home unexpectedly and accidently interrupted three gunmen who were holding another member of the house at gunpoint having accosted him in his front yard and forced him inside the house. The neighbor was shot and killed by the gunmen, dying in his driveway. I do not believe those gunmen/robbbers will be found to legally own their guns, nor do I believe they will come unarmed if we have stricter gun ownership laws here. Those concerned about the prevalence of guns in society need to please start by disarming the criminals and evil people first, and stop interfering with those of us who need to at least have a fighting chance of defending ourselves when we arrive back at our own homes, or take out the garbage after dark.

    • Eddie Bryan

      How do you know who is evil? And I would keep guns out of the hands of ex cons convicted for violent crimes. What stops that now? So, isn’t that guns out of the hands of criminals and “evil” people?

  • Allan T. Perkins

    I agree that following Jesus’ teachings and example are a starting point which churches, pastors, and chaplains can take. But, we also have to be honest with the citizens of the country. It is true that the U. S. Constitution defends the right to bare arms; but that constitution was written at a time when a firearm was needed to 1) hunt food for the average family, and 2) when the military was primarily local and state militia. In that time and place large standing armies were not common in peace times so individuals needed their own weapons to protect themselves and their community when called to assemble in the local militia. Neither of these conditions are true for most of us anymore. So, saying that it is a constitutional right to bare arms without putting that in context as as bad as taking a verse of scripture out of context to hurt others.

    • donna biven

      The last sentence was what I wanted to say It is our right. And even thoughb written at a different time, just like the Declaration of Independence, what they conveyed seemed to know the future.
      These were Men that did not have cell phones or radios and planes to save them. One horseman. That was Faith. And there was still Honor, so I would take the old words from them. I don’t think there were kickbacks, anyone corporations pulling strings or fear of assasinaton (well maybe but from a real enemy. Okay enough.

    • Thomas Arland Meade

      Mr. Perkins, I too regularly exercise my Constitutional right to bare arms, especially on a hot summer day.

  • http://uuinisrael.wordpress.com/ Emil Ray

    First, most gun control advocates are not saying we need to eliminate all guns, but they are saying we need restrictions, we need to make it harder to own guns, and limit the types of weapons.

    Second, there is a myth that owning guns is going to protect us. Look, the evidence is overwhelming that owning guns does not protect us. Instead, it makes us all less safe. It creates more danger and instability and death and violence. It is proven over and over and over.

    We need a reconceptualization of safety and protection. We don’t need guns to create safety – we need love. We need compassion, we need restraint, we need a culture of peace. We need greater funding for mental health care, we need greater efforts to eliminate violence against women and against children in their own homes. We need to eliminate the hateful rhetoric that clogs our public life.

    We need to stop with the claims that we should have semi-automatic weapons for our safety, and look around at the deaths that are occurring due to gun violence right here and now, each month, each day. We need to commit to developing a different culture that does not rely on violence and threat of violence to create a sense of safety and protection. Because that is not real safety, and it is not real protection. Our full and deep safety and protection, for all people, will come in the form of creating the beloved community in our world.

    • Bob

      Emil: your point about creating a culture of love and tolerance is well-taken, but that’s a large shift that requires a lot of time. It’s also hampered by the culture of entitlement, selfishness, and consumerism that has almost totally dominated modern American culture and pervades our media and our educational system. Until those things change, we’re going to continue to raise more and more generations of degenerates and crackpots who think that going nuts and killing people is a good idea. They will find ways to hurt others, even if we outlaw every gun tomorrow and melt them all down for scrap and childrens’ toys the very next day.

      I agree that we should all be working toward a more loving, compassionate society… but I don’t think that this has to be an “either-or” proposition. I think that it’s important for people to be willing and able to stand up and refuse to allow such evil things to take place when people would do them, and until the evil people stop trying, the only way to get that to happen is to make sure that the good people of the world have the means to stop it from happening. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true, and all the evidence supports it. Most gun violence happens in places where gun laws are strictest, and many hundreds more crimes are prevented by guns than are committed using them. You just don’t hear about the success stories of gun ownership, because our media chooses to ignore those stories.

      If “the only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing,” then disarming the good people for the sake of the lunatic fringe who will find ways to hurt others anyway unless they are stopped is a sure recipe for evil’s continued prevalence.

      • TimP

        Bob, the idea that restricting gun use allows more crime is counter intuitive to what actually happens in countries who have the strictest laws. Sampling research under bias approach have been used to provide your argument but in reality in most towns and cities firearms left uncheck becomes the weapon of choice. Our youth have firearms in their possession as early as 14 for what they call protection? Kids killing kids is not responsible ownership of a firearm. This is systemic in many urban communities and why? The easy access to acquire a firearm on the streets. If you live in a rural community, firearm ownership is common and does offer additional protection. But folks in these communities are responsible gun owners who mostly use guns as sport. Not in defense of a drug deal. I for one believe in the 2nd Amendment and the right to responsible gun ownership but not the abuse that proliferates most communities of weed sales, negligent handling of a firearm where children are killed or mutilated in households where guns are present. Responsible ownership doesn’t mean denying ownership but a conscience effort to support stronger and better safety measures that come with firearm ownership. Firearm ownership is a right abuse it with illegal use, negate the need to
        Safety issues and that person should Lise the right to own a firearm. True there is way more responsible owners of firearms but the abusers are heard the loudest because of the victims and families left with grief and shame.

        Firearms can be a line of protection but not the right to take actions in a society where first and foremost citizens are law abiding. There’s always circumstances but conclusions become permanent in cases where firearms become the equalizer.

        Violence begets violence. And history has proven these words truer than any other.

        Going to war is the ultimate insanity of violence what use is a firearm if to just to kill another human being. A deterrent that leaves lives broken an societies without answers.

        Firearms have a purpose but not the rational solution a civilized
        God fearing country should put first as the ultimate judgement of man.

  • http://bwchronicles.blogspot.com Russell T.

    I don’t think the problem is guns. There have always been guns. And while the current state of things is a disgusting and tragic result of the misuse of those guns, it hasn’t always been this bad. I believe the roots of the problem are the family and societal tolerance of such acts, the lack of ethical instruction or discipline, the lack of family communication and family time, whatever the dynamic may be, to say “how about we put down the remote control, the cell phones, the mouse and the keyboard and, I don’t know, play cards or read a book, or light some candles and tell cool stories, or (dare I say it) go outside and see something new, volunteer at a homeless shelter together, foster some kids who don’t have the same opportunities as you”. But we’re complacent. Guns will always kill (or not), but only WE can foster, through our actions, good behavior, a sense of justice, and a soul filled with love and compassion. Making guns illegal is irrelevant. In a society with love and justice and compassion, everyone in the world could have a gun and it wouldn’t matter.

  • Lois Reborne

    Well said, Emil. I live in a rural area next door to a neighbors who stand at our common property boundary with their guns; frequently they fire shots in the dark for reasons we can’t know. The family has immigrated from a part of the world where there is no rule of law, no police they could trust. Here they have warned off the volunteer fire department, waving their guns. I imagine they have little sense of safety and are trying to create safety here. Still, their actions have the effect of making us fear them, a sad thing to live with. I worry about what weapons they have or could get.

  • unnamed

    I am just so grateful that I have that gun holstered underneath my steering wheel. I can’t even imagine the untold scores of car-jackings its intimidating presence has spared me. Probably at least 3 or 4 per day.

  • http://sermonsinstones.com Amy Zucker Morgenstern

    Who are “the criminals and evil people,” David?

    Let me tell you who murdered my aunt. It was her husband, a well-known and respected poet and teacher: white, educated, middle-class, with no criminal record (though a history of violence against his wife). He had too much to drink, a violent temper, and a gun, which is a highly efficient way of killing someone without her even being close enough to strike back with a hand. She is now dead.

    Let me tell you who tried to murder my dad. It was a well-known and respected businessman: white, educated, upper-class, with no criminal record (though a history of violence against his wife). He had too much to drink, a violent temper, a sense of outraged entitlement, and, fortunately, no gun. He used a household knife and, thanks to a lot of luck, two very brave young men, and the inherent difficulty of killing someone with a knife, my dad is still alive.

    You seem to think the world is divided into the kind of people who would kill someone and the kind of people who wouldn’t. But neither of these men were widely thought to be the killing kind, until they had tried to kill someone. Now we know. By your reasoning, I’m afraid they would have been considered excellent candidates for gun ownership. In fact, that’ s how my uncle came to have a gun; he believed he needed it to protect himself from his enemies. The only person it was ever used on, as threat or weapon, was the mother of his four children.

    It’s sheer luck that the man who tried to kill my father didn’t also have a gun. If he’d paused in his rage to go buy one, he would surely have been allowed to (again using your proposed distinction), a fine upstanding citizen like that.

    What turns a good person into an evil person, a law-abiding person into a criminal, is very complex. But one ingredient, often, is a gun.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/phoenixandolivebranch Sierra

      Well said.

    • http://questformeaning.org Meg Riley

      Wow, Amy. I am so sorry. Two such horrific stories.

  • Theodore Bosen

    Bats don’t hit home runs
    Hammers don’t drive nails
    Cars don’t cause collisions
    Booze doesn’t cause drunk driving
    Motor cycles don’t cause head injuries
    Gambling doesn’t cause domestic abuse
    And Guns don’t kill people

    But how many home runs would Babe Ruth have hit without a big bat?

  • Eddie Bryan

    By some coincidence I read two stories on gun violence today that had nothing to do with the tragedy in Connecticut. In one a fight over how to cook pork chops ended in one man dead. In the other an Afro-american woman fired a warning shot being pursued by her husband in a domestic dispute. She tried to use the stand your ground law in Florida but wasn’t allowed it.
    Pork chops? And then the plain out and out prejudice of our judicial system. How is this an episode of Gunsmoke?

  • http://www.vorp.com Marty Price, Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program

    Violence and punishment, or Restorative Justice? Human society must come to understand that punishment does not equal justice, whether it is imposed by courts as a sentence or by individuals, as revenge. A different understanding of crime and justice is needed. Crime is not primarily a violation of laws. Criminal acts harm victims, communities and even the one who commits the crime. Doing harm creates an obligation to heal the harm, repair the damage, right the wrong – in whatever ways may be possible. This obligation belongs first to the offender, and society has an obligation to provide ways to make that possible. If the offender cannot or will not take active, direct and meaningful accountability to those harmed, then society must take responsibility to heal the harm and repair the damage, in whatever ways may be possible. Punishment does not heal victims, communities or offenders. Yes, sometimes a dangerous person must be locked up to protect the public – but not for punishment, which in most cases only further hardens the criminal. Punishment is passive and requires no accountability or change by the criminal. The criminal needs only to sit passively and suffer. Retributive justice – revenge by the State – has made the United States of America the world’s largest jailer, at staggering costs – both human costs and financial costs. Let us consider instead Justice that Restores.

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