Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Guns: A Deafening Silence

(A reminder: Click here to read The Buddha Diaries review of "An Arrow to the Heart: a Commentary on The Heart Sutra" by Ken McLeod on the Huffington Post.)

Strange. Strange and profoundly unsettling. In all the news media reports on the recent senseless killings in Nebraska and Colorado, I have heard very little about the guns that were used. If anyone has been speculating about how a deadly assault weapon ended up in the hands of a teenager who was already well known by authorities to be mentally unstable and a man whose hateful rage was also already on the record, I have not heard or read it.

I’m ready to stick my neck way out here and say that I find it incomprehensible and disgraceful that this sad history should have been allowed to repeat itself yet again in a country that suffers the evident delusion of being civilized. It’s incomprehensible and disgraceful that the question of reasonable gun possession legislation is not in the headlines of the media and on the tongue of every presidential candidate.

Has anyone given any thought to how sad it is that a church should need to employ armed guards for the protection of its staff and congregation in this “Christian” country? Apparently the Colorado case is confirmation of the need for such precaution, since the assassin was killed (in a timely fashion, true) by a woman security officer. We can be grateful to this brave woman that many lives were spared, and still rue the fact that her presence there was necessary in the first place.

Is this not yet another piece of evidence that what we are pleased to tout to the rest of the world as our “democracy” is, at best, a malfunctioning oligarchy, at worst, a mere plutocracy? Are we not ashamed that a small minority of fanatics should be able to intimidate our leaders and our elected representatives into continued support for a permissive policy that the vast majority find loathsome? How could anyone in their right mind believe that those who wrote the founding documents of this country intended that fire power be readily available to morons and maniacs alike (“militias,” anyone?)—let alone weapons of a destructive power that to those good men would have been unimaginable?

I am perplexed. Here is candidate Rudy Giuliani, formerly a rational proponent of gun control to stem the violence in the city of which he once was mayor, now doing a volte-face in order to escape the displeasure of the National Rifle Association and its followers. There is a row of Republican candidates confronted with an absurd and hostile UTube question from a pry-it-from-my-cold-dead-hands yahoo, rushing to surrender simple good sense to political contingency.

As for the Democratic candidates, check this out: Senator Biden “does not have a policy on gun control.” Senator Clinton “does not have a policy on gun control.” Senator Barack Obama “does not have a policy on gun control.” Same with Edwards. Of the whole bunch of them, only Sen. Mike Gravel even has a statement: “While Senator Gravel fully supports the 2nd Amendment,” it reads, “he believes that fundamental change must take place with regards to gun ownership. The senator advocates a licensing program where a potential gun owner must be licensed as well as properly trained with a firearm before they may own one." Well, bully for him. But what a weak-kneed, milquetoast qualification. (Dennis Kucinich, I’m happy to say, was rated “F” by the NRA, but I could not find a clear and honest policy statement on his site either.)

So where is the sanity? When do we begin to recognize that not every American citizen needs, or has a right to an assault weapon to protect his home, his family, his person. As for those who choose to hunt deer, or bears, or rabbits, or squirrels, or whatever other of God’s creatures they like to assassinate, are shotguns and rifles not weaponry enough for their valiant efforts?

Actually, I’m beyond perplexed. I’m outraged.


Paul said...

This post stirs two troubling things for me. The most immediate one is personal, and I'll leave it aside for now. The other one has a much broader scope.

Remember when the militia movement was prominent in the media? They are the ones who believe they a constitutional right to protect us from the government when the government comes along to take our rights away.

If my memory is correct, attention to the militia movement, survivalists, and other fearsome groups waned as George Bush came into power. There is much irony here I think.

Of course the tie that binds these groups with the current administration is the love of guns.

Do you suppose when a democrat ("They just want to take away your gun!") is elected we will hear more from those who will protect us from our rogue government?

robin andrea said...

I left this comment on another blog this morning about this issue:

I think these issues are the symptoms and not the disease. Gun ownership wouldn't be such a hot-button issue if we lived in a healthier culture. In smaller communities, the unstable member would be known by everyone. He could not hide behind his anonymity; his discontent or outright contempt for humanity would be known. Modern culture breeds this kind of lunacy. Taking away guns is not the answer. The answer lies in how we live, how people suffer alone in our midst, how we glamorize violence.

I think if we lived in a healthier, more inclusive culture, one that did not foster a sense of anomie and alienation, we wouldn't have to control guns. Of course since we don't live in that culture, the call for gun control echoes in the ears of the fearful.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Peter. It's a "Lunatocracy", in my opinion. It's horrible that our Presidential candidates cannot even bring themselves to discuss the issue openly. Doesn't give me much hope that they will have the courage to face any of the other tough questions fearlessly. Fred

PeterAtLarge said...

Robin, yes, I agree that "taking away guns" is not the answer. My piece was intended to suggest that we need to be more careful about how we hand them out! Don't let maniacs like me get their hands on one!

TaraDharma said...

a couple of thoughts: follow the money. who stands to lose if strict gun control were inacted? secondly, I'm afraid that even with stringent regulation and licensing, having hand guns/assault weapons out there in the market to supply the legal market, there will always be ways to get around it. I think the more thorough solution is to ban their use outright. Train and license hunters, all the rest must go.

It's a public health and safety issue. We banned cigarette commercials to influence the public's habits...but we can't seem to get deadly weapons to rate the same importance.....

Al said...

That's because my right to smoke isn't in the Bill of Rights.

I'm surprised that a post can mention oligarchy and yet still think that removing guns from the hands of the people is in their best interest. I'm sure the oligarchs would like nothing better, really.

lindsey said...

When I was younger I used to watch shows like the X-Files and think how cool it would be to be able to shoot a gun like an FBI agent.

Now given the fact that several people I know have been sexually assaulted, I need to seriously consider my personal safety.

I've realized, however, that I don't like the idea of being able to kill someone, to have the knowledge of how to cause someone harm with a gun.

One of the questions I struggle with when it comes to Buddhism and Christianity is self-defense. How can I turn the other cheek or not cause another being harm when my instincts say "fight for your life!"?

All I know is someone better not attack me when I'm walking to my car with my keys between my fingers. I will fight for my life and deal with the karma later. :-)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I, too, find it immensely troubling that none of our candidates has seen fit to address this issue for fear of losing votes.

Of course, candidates are also not required to actually keep their campaign promises once they are elected, which has always struck me as terribly wrong.

As long as guns are available with few limitations on owning them, they will continue to fall into the wrong hands regularly. Until this issue is acknowledged and dealt with, we will all live with mounting uncertainty and fear.

khengsiong said...

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has successfully reduced gun-related crimes in the city. When asked about his tactic, he said, "This is not about gun control. It's about crime control."

Debate of gun control stirs up emotions, so let's talk about crime control.

Al said...

Yeah but New York's gun control laws do an end run around the Constitution.