Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Have We Lost the Gun Battle?

Guns are here to stay. They're out there and no one from the government is going to go door to door insisting that people give them up. The NRA is powerful and there are a lot of folks who are so enamored with their rifles, revolvers, and semiautomatic weapons, they would be willing to defend their right to own them with their lives. Even more certain, they defend their right with their vote.

In 2010, there were 2,694 children and teens in the United States who died from guns*. That's more than the total number of US military casualties in the whole Afghanistan war** (2001 to June 2014). We are our own worst enemy.

I am tired of the violence. I am tired of the arguments. I am tired of the cliches:

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. On more law won't stop criminals. Gun control advocates just want to take away our guns. It's not right to punish responsible gun owners because of the irresponsibility of a few. We need guns for our protection. We have to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government.

I could come back with my own arguments about how often it is children killing children with their parent's guns or joke about how much safer my family would feel if they knew their myopic wife and mother with Parkinson's disease was packing heat. I could point out our government has some built in ways for people to get involved and work to change the direction of our country. It's called learning how the government works and getting involved. Our government is far from perfect, but it mostly functions quite well. 

But no one is going to listen. If you are reading this, I'd be willing to bet you are not an NRA supporter. You're probably a peace freak like me. It's been almost two months since a child was killed at a school. The initial panic, sadness, anger, and frustration has subsided and there's not much about it in the media right now. Have we forgotten already? Has this become so common we are numb to it?

I briefly considered another cliche - If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Maybe they're right and our country would be safer if everyone had a gun. A gun license could be issued along with our driver's license. Then, as criminals become more sophisticated and have larger and better weapons, we'd be required to do the same. The gun manufacturers would love it.

A couple of people have told me it's just the fact you have a gun that protects you. Having it means you won't have to use it. This sounds familiar - what was the arms proliferation called during the cold war? Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD.

The whole MAD scenario wouldn't work for me, so what would I do if I were threatened? I hope my role model would not be Clint Eastwood, but Antoinette Tuff***, a front office worker at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy near Atlanta, Georgia. When a gunman came into her school, she calmly talked him into putting down his gun and giving himself up. This could have been another mass shooting. Instead, no one was hurt.

I could also look to the late Fr. Roger Mollison, a Catholic priest and friend of mine who once talked a young man into putting down his gun and having some cookies instead. The man had come into Fr. Roger's youth center and threatened to kill him. Fr. Roger also talked a woman out of killing herself by explaining calmly that it wouldn't be fair to the cleaning lady who was coming in later that evening and would have to clean up the mess.

Both Fr. Roger and Antoinette Tuff admitted they were terrified at the time (and undoubtedly for some time after) and they knew they could have been killed. At any moment, the gunman could have just started shooting. This is obviously not a method one can count on to be successful.

I would still not want to carry a gun. I choose to believe that most people are good and, as long as I don't take unreasonable risks, I'm reasonably safe. I don't feel the need to carry a gun to protect myself. Yes, there is a slight chance I could be killed, but I could never, ever kill another human being. Even if I could, being the hero and saving the day is a lot harder and a lot less likely in real life.

We all have to die eventually. That's not an option. We can, however, make the choice not to kill. That's the path I choose. But hey, I'm just an old peace freak. What do I know?