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Guns on display in Roseburg, Oregon. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Guns on display in Roseburg, Oregon. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“Fighting only solves arguments!?”

This boyhood statement is ridiculous on the face of it, but appears to be at the bottom of ongoing violence. As I continue to explore Remembrance Day and the place of violence in our culture, I have been intrigued by America’s gun culture.

After the Oregon College shootings, Peter Daou wrote, “America is addicted to guns – which only give an illusion of strength and security.” It is a mirage that leads people thirsty for safety into the desert of pain. Though gun owners tend to get this false sense of security, over and over again, statistics show guns are used more on oneself, one’s spouse, and one’s family than it is ever used to “protect one’s family from a bad guy.” Daou writes,

You are not the same person carrying a firearm as you are without one. A device that can extinguish a life with the flick of a finger places inordinate power in the hands of an individual. That power – whether exercised or simply imagined – can be addictive…

America’s obsessive relationship with firearms is familiar to me; I know the intoxicating sense of power that a gun bestows, particularly to a young man. But in the aftermath of the terrible violence I witnessed and with the passage of time, I know that guns are dangerous and illusory shortcuts to strength and maturity and no guarantee of personal safety.

The Intractable Gun Control Debates

Therefore after another horrific mass shooting – this time at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College – “the intractable gun control debate has begun once again, with those who are categorically opposed to rational controls on gun ownership already insisting that a mass shooting is no reason to contemplate new laws. What is it about America and firearms? What makes us different from every other developed country that we tolerate such disproportionate levels of gun violence?”

Guns are a high. For someone just entering adulthood and grappling with the attendant challenges, emotions and sense of powerlessness, easy access to firearms is easy access to the ultimate drug: the feeling of omnipotence.

Violence only solves Conflict!?

The near effortless access to guns means that “the consequences of contentious interactions between people can more readily turn deadly.” Thus, when the NRA’s Mr. LaPierre articulated with what I called “breathtaking NRA logic” – “the only way to stop a bad buy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun” – I immediately thought of some of the good teachers I irritated to distraction in junior high school. One good teacher turned bad – broke a yard stick over my arm, and another teacher that reached the end of her tether threw a chalk-board eraser at me (both those “weapons” betray how long ago this would have been).

I thought: “what if my good-guy teachers had a gun?”  Or what about if they just had a “bad day.” Yikes!

I suppose I would have been better behaved? But is this the society we want? Where teachers become weaponized? Everyone packin’ heat means everyone’s ready to get very hot.

According to a report by the Center for American Progress,

The easy access youths have to guns across the country creates the opportunity for otherwise nonfatal confrontations between young people to become fatal.

Observations from the Firing Line:

Allowing unfettered access to deadly weapons leads to the carnage we’re seeing in our schools, our churches, our movie theaters, our shopping malls, and our streets. The frustration expressed by President Obama in his statement about the Oregon shooting is shared by millions of people, like me, who cannot fathom how we permit these travesties to continue.

Those of us who advocate for stronger gun control measures must understand that we are dealing not just with an obsession, but an addiction. And addictions are notoriously hard to break. Meanwhile, the death toll keeps rising.

Yes: I know there’s more to it than this

I know how political this thing is. I know people are quick to jump to their “rights” and to the real fear (not to be mistaken with “the real threat”) of feeling unsafe. But I respectfully suggest there are other (and much better) ways to address this fear.

My post today is meant to unravel one strand from the knot of intractable violence in order to expose:

  • how comfortable we tend to be with violence when we believe we have power

and

  • how comfortable we tend to be with violence when we believe the mirage that guns create safety.

Who or What you Trust – will betray the Actions you take

When we have only ourselves in whom to trust; when we have only ourselves to take care of business and to defend, then I suppose arming oneself to the max is to be expected.

But when you know whose you are; when you know who actually protects and controls your life, then we might be able to have a change of perspective:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.

Psalm 127:1

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 20:7

The Mystery of our Worth

In the mean time, let me point you to the mystery of our worth – to the One who made us for Himself.

When we know whose we are, we come to know who we are as persons of worth and dignity. This will change our posture to violence as the answer to every question of fear.

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