I am not an activist by nature. I’m too much of an introvert, and when crowds gather in a state of underlying anger 1 I tend to be overwhelmed by the raw power of that exponential emotion. It’s just how I’m wired. I even have to ramp myself up to gather in large crowds for good things, even though they are far less draining.
That said, I’m fed up. We have suffered yet another mass shooting at a school 2, and the adolescents and NRA vassals who make up our legislature are posturing to score points with their bases while accomplishing nothing 3.
The memes are flying on social media, and people are using the same tired arguments both for and against guns so they can feel better about their political stance. I’m fed up with that as well. I want to see some positive, and practical, steps happen. The one thing I’ve seen put forth is the promotion to ban assault weapons . And I’m all in.
Now the arguments against a ban like this are numerous. But here are the three I’ve heard with the most frequency.
If people didn’t have guns they would find another way to kill
This argument states people have done mass killings with cars, a knife can kill as easily as a gun, and people would use bombs if they couldn’t get a firearm.
All these assertions are true 4, but as an argument it’s flawed. A vehicle has a purpose other than taking a human life. In fact, using it to take lives is a mis-use of the tool. A knife has purposes other than taking human life. Hunters can use it to skin prey and outdoors enthusiasts can use them to help survive in the wilderness. The act purchasing the materials needed to create a bomb which would cause mass destruction, is already regulated.
An assault weapon, on the other hand, has no other purpose but to take life 5. It is the specific purpose for which it is made. So why on earth would we want these tools to be easy to acquire?
If they are banned then only criminals would have guns, we need more armed people around to “take out” the bad guys.
You know what? As much as I believe in the practice of non-violence as the ethic of Jesus’ Kingdom, I might accept armed “concealed carry” citizens as reasonable response to random mass violence. If I didn’t think such assertions were made by people who delusional, that is.
As a police chaplain, I work with officers and have been allowed to see into the world they inhabit. Part of this ministry has been listening to both the officers on my force and some older officers talk about the use of their weapons. To a person I’ve not met a cop who relishes the thought of pointing their gun at another human being and pulling the trigger. They would do so if they thought necessity arose, but they’ve had to psychologically train themselves to be in that situation. The fear of firing and being wrong is very real. And the older officers have told story after story of friends who were devastated by shooting a suspect even when they were right to fire in order to protect other officers or fellow citizens.
So for those who would like to use the “good guy with a gun” argument I say, “Fine. Commit to spending both the time and energy to receive the psychological and tactical training to make having a firearm a useful tool in a crisis 6 and then I might concede you can have some usefulness. Otherwise, the majority of the time you’ll be lucky to avoid getting shot by first responders when they do show up. Or, worse, you’ll wind up causing more carnage than you prevent.” As most of the arguments about the benefits of being armed are limited to, “I train at the range,” I have a feeling most people believe pulling out a gun in a crisis will be like stepping into a scene in an action movie or video game. It is not.
This isn’t a cure, the real problem is not guns
I am in one hundred percent agreement with this statement. Guns are a symptom, and banning assault rifles will not end the problem of violence in our society. But we also take medicine to reduce a fever when we’re suffering from a virus, even though a fever is a symptom rather than the underlying cause. The reason we treat symptoms is to give the body the time and energy it needs to heal itself.
We have huge societal problems which create the sense of hopelessness, anger, and alienation which leads to violent outbreaks throughout our society. Institutional racism, corruption, fear of one’s neighbor, a sense of entitlement to do whatever we want, and a lack of perceived value in being part of a community to help regulate our behavior are massive problems which are stretching the seams of our society. That’s the disease.
But if mass violence by means of assault weapons are a symptom of this disease 7 why wouldn’t we treat it? We don’t leave fevers untreated because we know leaving a symptom untreated can be fatal, so what’s different here?
So on March 21 I’ll be joining other folks in Philly who want to see this symptom treated so we can find time and energy for our society to heal. It’s going to take work, and it’s going to mean people of good will must come together to treat many more of the symptoms of our society disease beyond guns, but the alternative is unacceptable.
- Even when it’s for a righteous cause. ↩
- Not to mention to shootings all around the country, particularly in urban areas, which don’t get coverage because we have a perverse acceptance of it being “normal.” ↩
- And if you think I’m only calling out conservatives please unclench your fists, take a deep breath, and listen. As far as I’m concerned people from all parties need to get out from the view of the cameras. Why? Because the temptation there is to serve the interests of the party in the face of the upcoming mid-term elections. These politicians are all playing games with real people’s lives because they think they deserve to be in charge. I think this belief reveals they have no business being in charge — conservative, liberal, or whatever. ↩
- With the exception of the knife point. It can kill as easily as a gun, but not with the same volume. That doesn’t make it “better,” it just means it’s not a weapon typically used for mass murder. ↩
- It’s in the name. ↩
- And be willing to pay for the privilege to be trained by actual law enforcement. ↩
- Which is a point with which everyone seems to agree. ↩