Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Gun Aberration: Dangerous and Foolish

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed.

 We have a thing about guns that sets us apart--to our shame and disgrace. The fact is that "guns are involved in a much higher percentage of deaths in the U.S. than just about any other place in the world. . . and guns are more likely than any other weapon to be involved in mass murder in the U.S."
However we argue about the exact statistics, the fact is that our  peculiar gun culture is a blot on our national moral character. 

I don't pretend to understand how this came about in our history.  I do fear that this character defect is not widely or sufficiently recognized.  The debate about guns is superficial until  the deeper issue angers our guts, stirs our hearts, and energizes our minds.

This has little to do with owning guns or hunting or sports shooting.  It has more to do with our values, habits of mind, attitudes toward violence and our toleration and glorification of  it in popular culture --movies, TV, video games, and the like.

The problem is not easily resolved. We cannot even begin to work at it effectively until  our fascination with guns and gun violence becomes a focus of our moral concern equal to that we have given to slavery, segregation, women's rights, workers' rights, and gay rights.

Better regulation can help, and wise laws and practices ought to be enacted. But deeper change awaits a profound and lasting cultural horror at the reality and extent of  gun violence in our midst that leads to repentance and the fruits that follow. It is a change deeper than mere laws, though law has a role.

As long as we argue merely about the government taking or regulating our guns, more Newtowns are in our future. I see little evidence of the deeper revolution of mind and conscience that is needed.

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