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.