Thoughts on Guns
"This is a rifle, it's not a gun;
it's made for shooting, it's not for fun."
So runs a line in a movie, the name of which I have long forgotten. If I recall correctly, Richard Widmark is one of the main actors and plays the part of an army (or marine) drill sergeant.
It is one of those weird quirks of mine that, having heard the D.I. instruct a young recruit not to go around calling a rifle a "gun" that I wince whenever there is talk of "gun violence."
But wincing over the term "gun" is nothing compared to the contortion one goes through when under actual attack. I stood on a fire escape at the old Raymond Hotel in downtown Spokane one night in the mid-1970s when a disturbed man inside took a shot at me through the hotel window. I was a cop at the time and was on that fire escape to prevent him from becoming a sniper. He was mentally disturbed, threatening suicide and threatening to shoot anyone who got in his way.
I was fortunate in that the bullet missed it's mark; I got into a better vantage point to ensure he wouldn't do that again. After a stand-off that lasted a few hours, one more round was fired by the hotel's tenant; he died from that self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The question we face in our day is how to prevent firearm violence. It would seem an impossible task for a nation of 300 million people and a nearly inexhaustible supply of firearms.
No matter what you do, it is argued, criminals will always be able to get their hands on firearms and do harm. That's true. It is equally true that if there are fewer firearms, that criminals will eventually have to resort to using butter knives or box-cutters. To be honest, I would have preferred the man at the Raymond hotel to have thrown a knife at me than to have fired at me with his Saturday night special!
Just because a problem is complex, though, does not mean we should not begin a process of addressing it. Kicking the can down the road does not solve the problem, does not answer any questions, and simply irritates neighbors as they listen to it clang down the road!
Further, the delay in addressing these issues seriously (and without the flag-waving, name-calling, or insult-hurling screams of either gun-nuts or gun-abolitionists) means that another 30,000 people will die each year from gun violence.
While the mass murders get the major publicity, it is the common run-of-the-mill murders and suicide that do the country's heavy-lifting for the funeral industry (and let's not forget the many who are not killed but injured, or the families, friends, and loved ones left behind, and not to mention the collateral damage we may be ignoring or not even considering in our debates).
In the story of Noah's Ark, after the waters had receded and the bodies of the dead were beginning to wash up on shore, God repented of what God had done. God hung up his bow (the primary assault weapon of the day - God's AR-15, if you will) as a reminder to GOD - "I'll not do this ever again!"
Maybe we ought to give serious consideration to the prophet's call, to consider doing the same: Toss our weapons into a foundry, melt them down, and transform them from weapons of death to instruments of life: plows and pruning shears.
As St. Paul says, "Let's put on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, and shod our feet with the Gospel of Peace."
As people of God, that should be our FIRST order of business.