guns & insecurity

Today, I woke up thinking about guns (as sadly, given the events of this past weekend in New York and New Jersey, soon I will ruminate on bombs). Again.

Picking up where I ended my September 17 post, guns & loss, I asked myself: Why, Paul, would you feel less secure if you believed more people were carrying more guns? Because, I heard myself mumble aloud, quoting the slogan of one of America’s most powerful political action groups, the National Rifle Association, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

For years, with these mere seven words, the NRA has summarized its argument against governmental restrictions on guns. The problem isn’t the weapon (which, say, unloaded and resting on a gun rack or locked in a safe, harms no one), but rather the person who wields it.


In much the same way, I think, as an automobile parked in a driveway or a bottle of alcohol sitting on a shelf or even an illicit drug stowed in a hidden compartment doesn’t kill people, those who drive recklessly, drink irresponsibly, distribute illegally can and do kill people.

Yes, these are extreme examples (especially concerning illicit drugs, the uses of which harbor an inherent lethality). Yet most people most of the time do not drive or drink negligently or foolishly drink and drive and most people do not sell or dispense unlawful narcotics.

However, if more people possessed more guns, I will more than guess, I will predict that we will experience more gun violence, accidental and intentional.


Because people are flawed. As a pastor, though now retired (more or less!), who experienced, largely joyfully, a nearly 40-year active ministry, I am soberly and sincerely aware that human beings, even at our best, fall short of the glory of God. Here, however, I desire not to talk about other people and only about me.

A confession. For a host of reasons, many rooted in my formative years, I am sensitive to hurt and prone to anger. O’er time, with the wisdom of experience and the mollification of age, the razor’s edge of anger has been dulled. Somewhat. Verily, my capacity for ire has proven useful, even helpful in the ministry of service when turned toward the care of others. I hate suffering, especially of society’s least, last, and lost. I hate the systemic and institutional imbalances that perpetuate what I call “the iniquity of inequity.” Still, I continue to know myself to be one whose fury can flash in an instant when I feel affronted, especially when I perceive the insulting word or deed was intended. In those instances, were I to have a gun at hand, would I use it to chasten (frighten, injure, or worse) my offender? I would like to think not, but, truth to tell, I cannot be certain. One thing I do know. In a moment of maddened passion, would I think about using my gun? Doubtless, yes.

Here, again, I do not, dare not universalize my experience of self. Everyone is not like me. Still, I do not believe I am alone in this world as one whose belly is a cauldron of ever-bubbling irritation, thus susceptible to the encouragement, the enragement of resentment that can provoke even the thought of vengeful retaliation.

Hence, for me, the image of more guns in more hands in more times and in more places is a modern day apocalyptic vision, leaving me not only feeling less secure, but terrified.

8 thoughts on “guns & insecurity

  1. Paul,

    Your honesty about your own propensities is both sobering and refreshing. If we could be assured that each person owning/carrying firearms engaged and re-engaged in the sole-searching inventory you obviously have done and still do, we might have reason to feel more comfortable with the millions of guns in various hands around the country. Alas, I doubt that many would-be gun purchasers engage in deep self-assessment before going to the gun store.

    I feel myself extremely lucky to have survived childhood in a home that brought together under one roof often violent alcoholism and loaded guns. There was miraculously only one episode where the two came together in a very nearly deadly way. Experiencing it once was enough, however, to transform my convictions about the power of guns to keep people safe versus the grave risk simply having a gun readily available may create.

    You are right. People are flawed. They have weaknesses; they make mistakes. And any mistake with a gun is likely to be impossible to set right.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Karen, your words, “…any mistake with a gun is likely to be impossible to set right”, is as sincere and chilling a testimonial of truth as I can imagine. Yes, indeed.

    And I thank you for your witness to some of the variable factors in your formative years that have led you to your position about guns. I, too, know all too deeply sadly (un)well alcohol-fueled volatility in my childhood years. Doubtless, a root of my propensity to rage comes from feeling, being defenseless in the face of it and learning how to lash out, verily, to make new and more victims. God be praised, that level of anger, as I wrote, has tempered over the years, BUT it remains and resides in my soul. Hence, my aversion to guns.


    • Paul,

      Really grateful for the series on guns and what your words will be on the bombings in NY / NJ. Thankful that the suspect was caught prior to my writing this.

      I agree with Karen that your honesty in your writing is so very refreshing (and humbling too). Not everyone would admit that in a time of anger it’s possible they’d go for their gun to scare or even shoot another person. As I stated in one of your previous posts and you reconfirmed in this post, we are flawed for sure as individuals and of course if we have access to a gun we are likely to grab it even (or especially) when we are angry.

      One of my favorite tv shows is called Snapped. It’s about people who snap in a situation of conflict or anger and hurt or kill someone. Almost 90% of the show covers shootings. Some who are charged with stabbing another person have said in interviews that they were glad they didn’t have a gun because they would have continued to shoot until the person was dead, where they may not have killed their victims with their fist or one stab wound. If they only wounded their victim they typically receive less prison time and avoids soending the rest of their lives in jail because they “snapped”. We try to teach kids that their actions have consequences and that once you take an action you can’t take it back. This is certainly true when guns are involved. For me, not having access to a gun all the time allows me to walk away from a conflict situation without “snapping” and reaching for one. I agree with what you’ve said before that having a gun is so tempting.

      I’m not angry a lot but it only takes one time to pull out a gun and make a mistake…. Let’s not forget about parents or spouses who have killed their child or spouse in the middle of the night accidentally mistaking them for a burglar …. Even if they aren’t criminally charged they are for sure in a prison of guilt for the rest of their lives.

      Thanks again for your focusing us on this topic. Much love



      I’ve made many prison visits

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank your for your insights, Loretta. As deeply tragic as the stabbings up the road in St. Cloud were this weekend, I shudder to think how much worse the result could and would have been had that young man had a gun rather than a knife. As it is, he forfeited only his own life; his victims all have survived and are expected to recover from their physical wounds. Thank God that no guns were easily available to him; I can only think he would have used them if they were.


  3. “Snapped”, indeed, Loretta. You pointed out that TV show to me and, on occasion, I’ve tuned in. (Now, I confess that I did fear for myself that watching the episodes concerning folk who, reaching the breaking points of their self-control, brought harm and death to others would stir up that schadenfreude-esque element within my psyche that secretly, heinously delights in the failings of others as a way of bolstering my sense of self-esteem. But, no, that’s not been the outcome.) I’ve always, to a case, felt terribly sad for those who died and those who committed the crimes AND for me, knowing, believing that were I to be in those circumstances, I might have done the same things. A deeply disturbing and humbling awareness, I assure you.

    You’ve reminded me, too, out of your experience, of the times I’ve visited prisons, spending time with those who’ve been incarcerated for various crimes; even on two especial occasions some years ago, hearing their confessions. Powerful, poignant moments of shared humanity, again refreshing my sense of the common aspects of hurt and anger and the propensity to desire vengeance. Again, deeply disturbing and humbling.

    Now, in the face of the proliferation of guns in our society, verily, the seeming expanding of our gun-culture and self-protection mentality, there are days and moments of days when I think that if I remain one who chooses not to arm himself, that will be one less gun on the street.


  4. Karen, I, as you, thought about the man in Minnesota not having wielded a gun, but rather (only!) a knife. With a gun the potential harm in injury and death would have been greater.

    Nevertheless, deep in the bowels of my humankindness, I grieve for all involved – the wounded and the wounder, the assaulted and the
    assaulter. I do not consider myself Pollyanna-ish, that is to say, blithely, blindly hoping (wishfully thinking) for the best amid difficult, disastrous circumstances. However, I do hope, with what I pray is a Christian conviction, for the coming, the being of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. I pray even more to do my part, with the Spirit’s help, in my time and place to make it so.


    • I fervently endorse your hope for the world and your personal prayer, Paul. I see you doing your part every single day. What the news reports that I have seen of the events in St.Cloud over the weekend have not dealt with is a difficult recent history of harassment and tension surrounding the Somali Muslim presence in that community. There is no excuse for violence – ever, but I think it is always wise, just as it was after 9-11, to look at what preceded outbursts of great violence.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, yes, Karen, I agree. Every event in historical time and space, I think, in some real sense, given that it occurs after the dawn of creation, is a reaction (or a set of reactions) to an action (or a set of precipitating actions). No occurrence is an isolated entity. Hence, when something takes place, whether heinous or joyous (praise God, there are such moments!), we are wise to look afore to seek that which preceded it. In this instant case, perhaps we’ll not know whether the harassment of the Somali Muslim community in Minnesota had anything to do with the actions of this one person. What I do believe I know, as confirmed sickeningly repeatedly in human history, is that violence begets violence.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s