The mass shootings that are taking the lives of innocent people in schools, movie theatres and shopping malls are occurring at such regular intervals that no matter what side of the gun laws you sit on, we all share a palpable fear of the out-of control vulnerability of living so closely among so many. The mental instability and the anguish that goes unanswered belongs to all of us as we learn over and over again through these senseless acts of violence. Yet we also seem to be frozen and unable to have mature, rational discussions about taking steps to safeguard our society from the unfortunate and deadly encounters between the proliferation of guns and mental illness.
Although I respect the right and need for citizens to be able to protect themselves, when the 2nd amendment was written, we were shooting muskets. The multi-billion dollar gun industry has come a long way and we are now the most heavily armed country on the planet with only 5% of world population and 50% of the world’s guns. These guns are not evenly distributed and, in fact, while gun ownership has dropped in percentage of people having them, those who own them have way more of them.
Statistics aside, I struggle to follow the logic in the arguments of the NRA and the pro-gun enthusiasts. In recent NY times coverage, I was struck by two contradictory statements from representatives in the gun lobby. The first is their repeated defense in the wake of mass shootings: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” However, the second comment “Guns make us free” stands in sharp contrast. If guns are not responsible for killing, how can they possibly be the reason we are free? The gun lobby is a powerful force in our political landscape, and in recent weeks as the conversation about reformation to our gun control laws are being considered, I have witnessed the depth of fear that many, if not most, gun owners feel at the prospect of not having total freedom to arm themselves.
Most recently, the irrational fears that lead this thinking has lead a group of more than 100,000 to create a petition to deport a television anchor, Piers Morgan, for his opinions and coverage of the need for gun control reform in the US. He invited the leader of the group, Alex Jones, for an interview to explain his motivation. What ensued was nothing if not the voice of pure terror, which explains the mini arsenals that gun owners maintain and the inability of that coalition to think rationally.
Based on the NRA argument that guns make us free and safe, you would expect to see a little more confidence in the gun owning coalition, but instead, everything is perceived as mortal threat. Recently, when a small newspaper in upstate New York published the names and addresses of all the gun owners in their area, which is by law on the public record, the gun owners across the country went nuts, threatening violence to reporters and leadership of the paper.
Yes, its true that people kill each other, but its also true that guns make that easier. Our statistics that correlate gun violence and random massacres make it clear that easily available weaponry makes it easier for unstable and fearful human beings to kill one another. Guns and wars do not protect our freedom either, as we have witnessed over the many wars that have left countless countries in total destruction and have so diminished the resources of our own that we can’t even pay for basic services. For all the triillons we have invested as a nation, in violent weaponry and technology for protection, it is not a stretch to witness just how insecure we remain.
Even Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries in the world has begun a growing and successful effort to buy back weapons. The answer to our fears is not more guns, it is more love, more trust, more attention to those of us who are hurting.