Blame

The blaming has already begun.  

If only we had stricter gun laws, this would never have happened.  Michael Moore and others including parents of the victims have already begun blaming guns.  
Nobody seems to mention that three of the first victims were stabbed to death.  Perhaps we should outlaw knives as well.  Nobody mentions that one man has two broken legs because the killer gunned his car into a group of people.  Perhaps we should outlaw cars as well.
The refrain sounds louder every time something like this happens.  If only we didn’t have access to guns we couldn’t kill one another with guns.  In which case we’d kill each other with something else.  Like knives or cars or sticks.  With poison or rocks or any number of other items that can be equally deadly.
We don’t talk about underlying causes.  We blame mental illness, but this in the end can be a cop out as well.  How many mental illnesses do we create and codify each year?  How many new ways to describe faulty ways of thinking?  Who gets to decide what is faulty?  How much money will be spent on pills to try and modify the neural pathways and processes to mask this faulty thinking?
We are adrift as a society.  We insist on the sovereignty of the individual will and then are horrified when we see what the individual will is capable of.  We are bludgeoned and bullied towards giving up our rights as a people because of the atrocities committed by the few.  As though the atrocities will somehow end, or somehow be less atrocious if the number of lives lost is fewer by a handful.  
There are people who should not have guns, but this is never the focus of such bullying.  Nobody should have them.  Not anybody.  Only the police.  Only the government.  Only the ones who promise us that they can stop these things from happening if we only give up a little more of our freedoms and rights.  Despite the fact that for the vast majority of our nation’s history we have had guns.  Individuals have had guns.  It’s only in recent decades that such atrocities have become commonplace.  Instead of looking at the myriad other changes in the past few decades, some people simply want to blame guns.
I ache for the parents and friends and families of the victims and the perpetrator.  But outlawing guns will not alleviate their pain.  It won’t restore their loved ones.  Only one person can do that, and that person, the incarnate Son of God, has been banished from the public square, from classrooms and psychiatric offices and government.  The only one who can heal and restore is the only one we refuse to acknowledge.  Refuse to invite into the conversation.  Refuse to listen to.  
I don’t doubt guns will be outlawed.  Perhaps in less than ten years.  But I predict one thing here and now: atrocities will not be averted or prevented.  And far greater atrocities will likely be perpetrated in the name of safety and protection of the population.  
Not that anybody will be able to read this blog by then if that’s the case.  
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2 Responses to “Blame”

  1. JP Says:

    I agree. There are deeper issues to be dealt with than the guns themselves, namely the underlying issues that cause someone to buy one and use it to take another person’s life. This is the long, hard, but ultimately more important work we need to be engaged in.

    I am not one to quote Michael Moore very much, but there was one portion of a Facebook post he made that I thought was good food for thought. He writes, “While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do–and yet we don’t seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: ‘Why us? What is it about US?’ Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that?”

    Here Michael Moore gets at those deeper issues, but he does so in service to his overall point of greater gun control. Like you, I agree that this is only the symptom of a deeper problem, but isn’t treating the symptom, at least in the short term, a good thing to do? The more time I spend outside the US, the less sympathetic I am to the basic supposition that Americans have a fundamental right to bear arms. Doesn’t the evidence show that less guns does lead to less gun violence?

    This past summer I was with Christian friends who said they wanted to have a gun in their house because they think there will be a time coming soon when they will need to use it to protect themselves from the government of the US. What!? I honestly don’t understand how Americans, in a long-standing and stably democratic society, can say they need guns to protect themselves from the government, when all over the world there are people living in true physical danger from their government. This is a problem of perspective.

    Do we want guns because they are actually, truly , verifiably good for us, or do we want guns simply because we don’t want someone telling us we can’t have something and taking away our “rights”?

    These thoughts are scattered, I know. I’m writing them on the fly when I should be listening to a theological training session in Phnom Penh. But this issue, more than any other, has been on my heart these past few years. I find myself understanding, and agreeing with, supporters of second amendments rights less and less.

    Anyways, would love to chat more about it.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, and for ignoring your theological training session.  Smooth move, dude  I wish I could say I wasn’t guilty of the same thing, far more often than you I’m sure!

    Moore’s question about “why us” is indeed critical.  Does the evidence show that fewer guns results in less violence?  I suppose it would depend on how one defines “violence” then.  Is it the same definition being used across the board?  Is our goal a reduction in deaths?  A reduction in “violence”? Or a serious look at what might cause people (regardless of the demographic) to lash out in this way against the people around them?  

    Our right to bear arms is directly an issue of distrust of our government – among other issues.  This is a fundamental error in how the debate on gun control sometimes plays out.  The right to bear arms is not a matter of hunting – though I’m sure far more people used their weapons for hunting 200 years ago than they do today.  The reason for including the Second Amendment is to ensure that people can defend themselves.  The text is vague enough to cover any number of contingencies, but in the context of conflict with the government, to ignore the fact that only by owning weapons could colonists hope to enforce their demands for fair treatment from their government – or remove themselves from that government’s power – would be shortsighted.  

    Compared to many countries in the world the US is definitely a “stable democratic society”.  However, how reliable are these adjectives?  How stable are we when the government has been forced to admit widespread eavesdropping and data collection on citizens with no clear criminal or terrorist ties?  How stable when the IRS is forced to admit selective targeting of specific types of groups to deny them legally available tax-exempt status because of a disagreement in ideology?  How democratic when our government is already dictating how drone surveillance will be conducted on American soil – surveillance of the general US population, not specific targeted individuals?  How democratic when our elected leaders refuse to do the hard (and unpopular) work of controlling Federal spending and ending our spiral of debt?  How democratic when businesses and special interest groups can channel millions upon millions of dollars into elections, and when their constant presence (and money) in our nation’s capital cannot be ignored?  How democratic when our party system is codified, where no actual ingenuity can be permitted without losing the support of the two major parties and the special interests that dictate their terms?

    Don’t get me wrong – I love my country, and I think we are much better off than many places in the world.  But I also believe that we are an anomaly in human history.  An odd blip on the historical radar.  The very basis of our existence in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution create something out of step with sinful human nature, striving towards some small re-establishment of the idea of God-given rights.  As such, I believe our country has been, is, and will continue to be the target not simply of secular world powers and economics, but the demonic as well.  If we believe that the errors and excesses and abuses we see in history and around the world today can’t happen here, well, I think that’s a dangerous assumption.

    Slippery slopes are by definition slippery, and the first steps down them rarely look as though they will precipitate a rapidly accelerating slide downwards.  If our government simply dictated that guns were no longer legal and demanded that they be turned in at armed checkpoints and conducted infrared or chemical sweeps of our neighborhoods and homes to detect ammunition, we’d immediately know we were in bad shape and we might do something about it.  If our government could somehow convince us – or allow us to convince ourselves – that we ought to give up our guns, well, that doesn’t look fascist does it?  It doesn’t sound dictatorial.  We’re protecting ourselves.  We’re acting in the best interests of our community.

    Aren’t we?  Therein lies the debate.

    As I alluded to in my initial post, I don’t have a problem with the idea that some people should not own weapons, though I also admit that even this is a dangerous mini-step down a slippery slope.  We already have this in some respect by prohibiting felons from purchasing guns.  But to immediately demand that everyone surrender all of their guns because of the misguided and tragic actions of a tiny group of people doesn’t seem logical to me.  To do so under the guise of protecting us from ourselves doesn’t make sense to me.  Not while the government maintains a massive arsenal of weaponry – literally buying up all of the ammunition available on the open market at one point (this was Homeland Security at work, not the US military!).  

    Your question about whether guns are “verifiably good” is a sound one.  I think guns are verifiably awful.  They do verifiably terrible things.  But the absence of guns can also allow for verifiably terrible things to be done by anyone who still retains a gun.  I don’t defend the Second Amendment because I like guns or killing.  I defend the Second Amendment because I see it as an integral part of defending all of my Constitutional rights, because I know sinful human nature firsthand.  

    Thank you for conversing – I would love to continue the conversation!

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