Heaven on Earth
We need it now
I’m sick of all of this
Sick of sorrow
I’m sick of the pain
I’m sick of hearing
Again and again
That there’s gonna be
Peace on Earth
–U2, Peace on Earth
Some have accused me of insensitivity due to my FB posting yesterday in which I highlighted what had occurred the day before in my home state of Michigan:
“LANSING — Changes to the concealed weapons law passed the state House and Senate late Thursday, allowing gun owners to carry their weapons in formerly forbidden places, such as schools, day care centers, stadiums and churches.”
Some said it was too soon to talk about these kinds of issues.
Some said I was out of bounds for “making this political.”
Some accused me of being insensitive or narrowing this down to one issue. (because a single FB post clearly defines everything I think about a subject)
First of all, let me say that as a parent of four children, all of whom are the right age to attend Sandy Hook, and who just spent their first week in an urban public school, I was devastated to hear of this incident, and I am absolutely sick about it. I have no idea how I am going to drop off my four little precious ones on Monday, and say, “See you soon.” I am sure all parents feel the same way.
Yesterday was a day for grieving. So is today, and the day after that.
But is it not appropriate to begin to wonder: what has to change? How can we avoid situations like this?
I get that people got angry at me. I get that we’re all a bit angry. But seriously, is it really worth getting angry at those who wonder: “What if this guy didn’t have guns?”
Some are sure the answer is not less guns, but more.
We need more people trained to use guns in our schools. Like teachers and school administrators. More guns in our schools.
We ourselves should arm ourselves, because who knows, someone could break into our homes and threaten our own families. More guns in our homes.
The question is: What kind of society do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be?
The argument that we need more guns, and more people trained to use them boils down to: then we can kill, before we get killed.
They may, in fact, be right. This strategy may well have some level of effectiveness. It may even be the most effective strategy.
Again I ask: What kind of society do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be?
Perhaps we need to admit that we live in a sick society, and just increase weapon proliferation to deal with the issue. “It’s effective.” “I’ll feel safer.”
But do we really want a society in which there are more of these weapons that can be unleashed across a schoolroom full of unsuspecting children?
And for me the more poignant question is: do I really want to become someone who has to be trained to kill someone else, as the answer to reducing violence?
What happened to making this a broader issue than just guns? (Those who are angry at mention of gun control but turn around and say we need more guns are also talking about: gun control. Just less of it.)
To me, this stems from a lack of imagination, and a lack of hope.
Let’s Talk About Training
I’d rather be trained in being a good parent.
I’d rather be trained in connecting with my neighbors.
I’d rather be trained in getting involved in my neighborhood school, getting to know the kids, the families, the moms, the dads, the challenges, etc.
I’d rather have others who are trained in mental health issues and counseling accessible to those who need their services and expertise.
I’d rather train my kids to deal with emotional and social issues in a healthy manner.
I’d rather train my kids to be discerning consumers of media.
I’d rather be a person who is trained to love, than one who is trained to kill (even in self-defense).
(And this is just me, I get that we do need some folks like that, but I bristle at the suggestion that we all become like that.)
A Question of Efficiency?
Call me naïve on this. Call me ignorant or even Amish when it comes to guns. Not a big fan.
They kill people. Ah, but you say, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
Well that’s fine and good.
But as James Fallows noted yesterday in The Atlantic:
“Guns don’t attack children; psychopaths and sadists do. But guns uniquely allow a psychopath to wreak death and devastation on such a large scale so quickly and easily. America is the only country in which this happens again — and again and again. You can look it up.”
And also, as I’m sure you’ve heard, there was an outbreak of violence at a school in China yesterday as well, and because there was a knife, instead of a gun, all of those children are alive today. Though, it has been pointed out to me that knives can kill people too. But does anyone seriously want to compare assault rifles to utensils?
Guns make it way too easy. Pulling a trigger can happen with a momentary brain lapse. Killing someone with a knife or spoon takes some serious want-to, and generally hurts one person at a time, not an entire classroom.
But you say, more trained gun carriers will indeed make us safer. It’s the most efficient way forward.
Or perhaps not.
Consider this article, which came out in September:
In the wake of the slaughters this summer at a Colorado movie theater and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, we set out to track mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. We identified and analyzed 61 of them, and one striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. Moreover, we found that the rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years—at a time when America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in public. And in recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed.
America has long been heavily armed relative to other societies, and our arsenal keeps growing.
There is no evidence indicating that arming Americans further will help prevent mass shootings or reduce the carnage, says Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a leading expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin. To the contrary, there appears to be a relationship between the proliferation of firearms and a rise in mass shootings.
And armed civilians attempting to intervene are actually more likely to increase the bloodshed, says Hargarten, “given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances.”
For the sake of argument, let’s say that more trained gunowners is the most efficient solution to avoiding disasters like occurred yesterday. Are we ceding that violence is the answer? Is efficiency our highest goal? And is becoming potential killers ourselves really the place we want to be?
“We need to become those trained to kill so that others don’t kill us.”
Kill or be killed, isn’t that what Jesus said?
Or was it: “those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” I also seem to recall an ancient prophetic dream that one day swords would be beaten into plowshares, and war and fighting would be no more.
Ah… but you say, “That is way in the future.”
For now, you say, let’s eschew the Psalmist’s call to trust in the Lord rather than in horses and armies (or firearms and munitions), and arm ourselves for the sake of the children.
After all, Jesus was a bit naïve about the whole “sword thing” and the whole “turning the other cheek” idea. Look where it got him.
As followers of his, surely we are much wiser.
Carry the weapons, shoot first, and trust in God later.
“If someone broke into your home and threatened your children, wouldn’t you rather be able to shoot and kill them?”
What kind of society do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be?
Linger here and reflect
I live in Washington DC. I don’t own a gun. Call me Amish, a wishful-thinker, or naïve… Or maybe just a bad parent. Speaking of which, we went for a walk with the kids last night in an area garden decorated with Christmas lights, and came across a memorial to those who died at the hands of the DC-area sniper back in 2002.
And we saw this stone:
“Linger here and reflect on those lost to violence.
Hope for a more peaceful world.
Seek a reverence for life among all people.”
There are no easy answers. This is not a one-issue situation. We all have some long and hard thinking to do about it.
But should that stop us from dreaming?
What if we tried to enact the prophetic dream now, and gave up our obsession with violence? What if we didn’t wait for someone else to beat the pistols into plowshares, but set the example ourselves?
What’s the worst that could happen?