Yes: It’s about the guns.
If it weren’t about the guns, people wouldn’t rush into defending the 2nd amendment mere hours after a massacre of kindergartners If it weren’t about guns, there would not be a small but loud minority pushing for guns in the hands of school teachers. If it weren’t about the guns, people wouldn’t dismiss those who have been through this before. If it weren’t about the guns, we wouldn’t be going through this time and time again. If it weren’t about guns, WalMart wouldn’t have to resort to gun sales to save their bottom lines.
The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was about many things: mental illness, evil, school security, violence in media, family disintegration, etc. The presence of any or all of these issues does not let guns off the hook. The perpetrator chose guns-guns only designed to kill humans.
There is no such thing as a powerless gun. Even unloaded, the presence of a gun denotes lethal power. It changes the dynamic of any encounter. Even when I see a cop shopping for toothpaste inside Walgreens, I always note his/her gun. To ignore the psychology of the gun is to ignore the reality of what guns do to those who are in possession of them. See this study on the psychology of the gun done by Notre Dame University. There is a principle in Christianity which states that once we know something we cannot pretend to not know it. See Paul’s analysis of the purpose of Hebrew law in Romans 2-3. We know that guns, even in the hands of stable people causes anxiety and fear. More guns, more fear.
Guns and Sensible Action
This morning, my Senator, Joe Manchin (D-WV) appeared on TV espousing a sensible conversation on guns in America. He talked specifics like extended clips and assault rifles. He talked about being changed by the Sandy Hook incident. That is the right reaction. It should horrify us. Those who are not horrified by this, who aren’t shedding tears and losing sleep are Pharaohs to me. They are traitors and a threat to my family. And yet, even as Manchin spoke, his own people were vilifying and dismissing him. I have lots of issues with Sen. Manchin, no doubt. He is absolutely right about this and I am strangely optimistic that he will participate in changing these outcomes in a meaningful way. He has a A rating from the NRA and is a life-long NRA member. Yes, he knows guns and is talking sense. I fear, however, that he will get caught up in the gun lobby that is fueled by irrational fear and extremist propaganda.
The fear factor is definitely real and potent. The arming of teachers and schools suggestion is the worst one I have seen. Though few others have espoused such twisted ideas, many others fall prey to the god of low expectations. It’s not just that schools ought not be places of violence. It is that they SHOULD be places of wonder, discovery, curiosity, truth and hope. And lest we be trapped by another demon, most schools are such places.
What to Do
I am thinking of what CAN be done now, and I think this is the time to double-down on EVERYTHING that is good, especially those things that make kids, kid: money for art in school, great playgrounds at every school, teach kids to sing and play musical instruments, write new books for kids on all subjects, take them on awesome field trips so that the world never ceases to be a marvel. Ann Curry is promoting 26 Acts of kindness as a national response to violence: this is the right way to go. We should all go back to kindergarten.
I also think the common citizen must return to the neighborhood conversation about what is good and what is the hoped-for future of our society. Churches, restaurants, cafes, schools, businesses need to provide spaces and times for adults to come together (face-to-face!) and talk about community issues. Preachers, teachers, researchers, psychologists need to contribute to our collective understanding of why these circumstances continually happen. We also need to employ all means to raise the level of discourse on guns in this country. The strident fear that “Obama’s gonna take our guns” needs to be called out for the falsehood that it is. Let’s focus on matters of agreement first and work our way out: mental illness may have to become a national barrier to gun ownership; military style guns need not exist; gun-purchase must become more difficult.
And we have to talk about guns: about why military style weaponry has no place in our world (not even in wars, much less schools), about why handguns promote violence, about why we are so addicted to guns that we’d rather children die than change our minds. We have to confess our insolence on the matter. We have to confess our violent history and purge this evil from our national soul. We have to bankrupt Tarantino and those who turn violence into a carnival. We should apologize to the victims of Columbine, Aurora and Clackamas for not taking their deaths seriously enough to admit we have a problem.
And we do have a problem.
Feature image by "mr.smashy"