At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gun Control? Knife Control? Nope. We Need Self-Control

To any overseas bloggers, what follows is my take on a hot-button American issue. Be assured, however, you are welcome to linger, read, and comment.

I was in my second year of teaching when the Columbine High School massacre occurred. On April 16, 2007, I was frantically emailing and calling former colleagues in Virginia, trying to ensure that none of my former students at the Covenant School had fallen victim to the assailant's bullets in the Virginia Tech shootings. Just last December, a nation was shell-shocked as children and adults alike were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Now another horrific tableau, the multiple stabbings at Lone Star College in Texas is forcing us to think  what we can/must do about violence in America.

The tragedy and sorrow borne out of these and other frightening experiences prods us to ask questions, and that's completely reasonable. These moments shove us toward seeking solutions, and you can blame people for wanting that.

But it is precisely the type of questions we ask that are critical to the solutions we seek.

Many political leaders ask, "How can we keep our kids safe?" Some ask, "How can we preserve the inherent constitutional rights of citizens to own and operate firearms?" Another question has peppered forth: "What can we be doing for people who commit these crimes that have some sort of psychological  or personality disorders?"

All of these questions have merit. But none of them is the question that cuts through the bull.

And that question is "What's wrong with us?"

But more on that later.

I do have some musings on this whole matter of gun control, of assault weapons, of weapon usage, of Constitutional rights, of citizen responsibilities. As follows:

1. You are free to ask me if I own a gun. I am also just as free to decide if that's anybody's business, or to answer in the negative or affirmative.

2. With rights come responsibilities. If you own a firearm, use it well. Aim true. Shoot well. Defend yourself when needed. Enjoy it. Don't be stupid.

3. The overwhelming number of gun owners in America follow the principles in point #2 above to the letter. Don't paint them as some sort of slobbering, uncontrollable militia, because it's way off base.

4. People who advocate for some level of gun control are not automatically the fringe-group, bleeding-heart pansies that some die-hard gun-rights people make them out to be. I know many on that side of the fence who mean very well and want real solutions. Their positions are driven by conscious, deliberate thought and an attempt to reach workable conclusions. Sift through the wordage on background checks, etc., and be civil.

5. Statistics: Stricter gun laws and a higher level of control  measures have a tendency to lead not to greater safety, but to more attacks. And while I'm on the subject, yes, some people are calling for the confiscation of privately-owned firearms. Guess what? Whenever a government has done this in history, it has never turned out well for the civic health of the nation. (cough, Hitler!)

6. If you want decent intervention on the weapons issue, how about allowing the states to consistently enforce the laws that are already on the books? The last I noticed, the Tenth Amendment was still in the American Constitution.

7. To make jokes about weapons and asking "what about assault spoons?" or jumping on news stories like the Lone Star cluster of stabbings to score political points is uncivil and insensitive to the victims.

8. On the other hand, for a political leader to use grieving parents and families as props to pontificate about gun control initiatives neither does justice to the solution needed nor does it sanctify their tears.

To me--and you are welcome to take issue with this--any approach that tries to restrict "assault weapons" (a term which goes largely undefined on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News and runs through our national discourse like a greased pig at a Kansas county fair) is going to ultimately make minimal progress, if any. In all likelihood, the safety of citizens would go into reverse, but again that's a debate for other times. The hard truth that we are learning right now--if we have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to receive--is that whether it's a gun, or a knife, or a spear, or a steel chair, or one's bare fists, or a sword, a woodchipper (forgive the Fargo reference), a bomb, or anything else...we are left with a truth hitting us between the eyes with magnum force.

There is something deeply, horrifically wrong with us.

In some people it operates at a more devastating, destructive level, but my point is there is something within all of us that is not right. Something that rears its ugly head time and again, where we reach out not to affirm or edify or protect someone, but rather tear them down either in body or spirit.

It was R. Lee Emery, in his memorable role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket, who barked at his Marines, "Your rifle is only a tool. It's a hard heart that kills."

Different situation today than the Vietnam War, to be sure. But my point is this: At their core, our hearts are hard, sinful masses within. And they desperately need changing.

There is neither any government law nor any line in the Bill of Rights that can mollify or snuff out that evil, that power that drives people to horrific ends. To be sure, there is only one solution. And it has to do with regeneration of the spirit, not layers of more controlling laws or liberation to greater stockpiles of bullets. Unless a crucified and risen Jewish carpenter graciously collars one's heart and initiates a joyful invasion of the soul, nothing will do any good.

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