Is Your Sign Language On Safety?

Is Your Sign Language On Safety? August 29, 2012

You know we’re confused about the human nature and where evil comes from when we have a problem with a three-year-old deaf child who signs his name in a way that looks like he’s pretending to hold a gun. (The boy’s name is Hunter, so the sign for his name involves a gun-like motion. Click here for the story.)

I’m sorry, but this is silliness amped up on steroids and run amuck.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m for the enforcement of existing gun laws. I’m for background checks and waiting periods. I’m for limiting the sale of weapons to those who pose a threat to others. And, if you’re wondering, I’m not a member of the NRA.

But, I couldn’t be more convinced that the problem with violence in our society is not a problem with guns. It’s a problem with the fact that every person, and every society, has fallen and can’t get up. The problem of evil is within and without the human heart, but it is not forged in a metal shop and stamped with Smith & Wesson®.

The idea that we can remove violence perpetrated with guns by removing guns is like thinking we can remove the problem of obesity in our society by removing silverware. First of all, those who want to overeat are going to use their hands, or chopsticks, or a cat litter scoop, or anything else they can find in their moment of desire. Secondly, and more importantly, the focus on silverware would remove our society’s ability to focus on the hearts, and hurts, and physiologically addictive tendencies of those who are obese. Ironically, focusing on silverware devalues and dehumanizes the issue of obesity.

The same goes for guns. Those who want to hurt others will still find guns, or bombs, or chemicals, or anything else they can find in a moment of irrational rage and hate. But more than that, our focus on guns as the primary problem actually keeps us from focusing on the deeper issues—people’s hearts, pains, tendencies to abuse or hurt, and histories of having been abused or hurt.

My heart goes out to the victims of gun violence. I cried when I heard of the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado. (I wrote about it here.) But insinuating that three-year-old Hunter Spanjer signing his name in a way that resembles a gun is in some way encouraging or contributing to the actions of people like James Holmes is missing the point entirely. And when we miss the point, we fail to address the issue.

(Note of clarification: The Grand Island Public School board [GIPS] is NOT asking Hunter or his family to change the way Hunter signs his name. The best that I can tell from the news reports, it appears that the pressure has come from people outside of the family & GIPS leadership.)

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