The conundrum here is that those on the gun control side want to pass measures to keep guns out of the hands of the "bad guys". You know, the felons, adjudicated mentally ill, domestic abusers, drug abusers, illegal immigrants, terrorists, minors, etc. We truly believe that if we extend Brady background checks to all gun sales, we could go a ways toward stopping easy access to guns to those who can't or won't use them responsibly. This, of course, will not stop the gangs and criminals from getting guns anyway, according to the gun guys. There are so many guns already legally owned in America that it would be impossible to stop all gun transactions that happen illegally, not to mention the stolen guns that are used prevalently in crime. Guns also become illegal transactions in straw purchases. So now we have the flow of what have become illegal guns into the pool. How do we drain the pool? We have to start with the river of guns flowing in ( which I have discussed before). That is why those on the side of gun control want to pass laws to stop at least some of the guns from turning into illegal guns that are used in crime and shootings.
Jared Loughner was a "bad guy". He killed 6 people and injured 13 in the recent mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. We will be talking about it for a long long time but then what? This article written by a reporter who covered the story is insightful about the shootings and what they do to our collective consciousness. But Loughner was also considered to be a "law abiding" citizen in that his name was not flagged in the FBI's list of prohibited purchasers so that he could buy his guns legally from a federally licensed dealer. We have flaws in our system that allow people like Loughner to buy guns anyway. Either their names are not in the NICS or they can get their guns (legally) at gun shows without a background check or in some other illegal fashion. Thus are the gun laws in the U.S.
Now there are the "good guys" with their guns that are sure to never use a gun in a crime or a shooting ( or so the pro guns guys say). I have provided copious examples of "law abiding" gun owners who have shot other people even though their guns are legal and they are not criminals. Sometimes they shoot themselves. Sometimes their children shoot themselves or others accidentally. Sometimes these are people who are having problems in their lives. Was the shooter a criminal when he/she pulled the trigger or did he/she become so only after pulling the trigger? We argue back and forth meaninglessly about whether or not homicides are committed mostly by those who know each other or by strangers. What's the difference? Loss of life is loss of life. If the shooter was law abiding before he or she shot someone, he/she is surely not once the gun is shot. But for the pro gun folks, they can't imagine a law abiding person pulling the trigger to hurt or kill another human being. In their world, that shouldn't happen. In my world, it did.
In recent days, the pro gun guys and I have gone around again about a few things. There has been the usual name calling which has not been published but just as an example, I have been called a " stupid cunt" many times and to go "f^%$" myself. So we are at a point of no return for some folks. These people don't have their comments published for obvious reasons. They are not nice people. I don't like them. But I have been giving a lot of thought to what I say and how I say it and what those who oppose me say and think about me and the groups to which I belong. They don't like me or the Brady Campaign or any group working towards common sense gun laws. And we don't much like the NRA or other pro guns groups either. We have each dug in our heels. The more vitriolic the conversation goes, the worse the remarks, the more angry the remarks, the further and further we get away from one another regarding any chances of working together. Recently I was critical about remarks made at a town hall meeting from a tea party type person who asked out loud who would shoot President Obama. There is no excuse for this coming from anyone. I blamed the conservatives ( being a liberal myself). Then I was sent some links to folks on my side using almost as bad language when President Bush was in office.
My pro gun friends are right. There is enough hyperbole and angry rhetoric coming from both sides to lay blame where it should be- with those who hurl the remarks. What gets us to this point? I believe, in some ways, it has always been such. When one side is perceived to have power and uses it in ways the other side does not like or feels threatened about, the other side becomes fearful of changes and losing control. We go back and forth. It is the ebb and flow of politics. What has changed then? For one thing, we have 24/7 cable news shows that pick up things that did not used to make it into the news. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are particularly venomous on the right. We have blogs and on-line media where things get said without filters and comments are made that are rude, angry, demeaning, threatening and worse. We have become an anonymous world- the free flow of information comes with a price. We are polarized.
This morning while sitting in church, I thought about how this could change. Actually, I started my thought process yesterday about what I am writing about here today. On the way to church, I heard a part of a conversation on National Public Radio between Krista Tippet and Vincent Harding, a Civil Rights activist. Tippet's program, Being , is taking a month to talk about the Civil Conversations Project that explores the issue of civility as it relates to religion and government. Harding spoke about the small "d" democratic nation and how we have strayed away from that original idea of the founding fathers to be a nation where differences would be accepted, debated, explored, but not hated or feared. The idea was to work together so we could be together as one country with the same goals and reasons for being. We can, as my minister said this morning, walk with the Bible ( or Quran or Torah, or whatever) in one hand and a newspaper in the other. This idea came from the theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We do need to be aware of world events as they relate to our human condition and our individual and collective beliefs.
So back to my blog for a minute. I write something and post it. I am sincere in what I write. I don't have a hidden agenda. Sometimes I write from my heart and sometimes I am critical of current political incidents or something said from the "other side" of the issue. I have written before about the two different world views of the pro gun and pro gun control sides. Just recently I mentioned that my gun owning friends who like to shoot recreationally or hunt ( we have hunting guns and I come from a hunting family) support what I am doing. The push back from the pro gun side is that those folks must not know what I'm really up to. Of course this is not true. It's amazing that people would actually believe that. I wonder why they just can't believe that there are reasonable gun owners who believe in what I am doing and say so in poll after poll after poll? When I tell these folks what the pro gun guys think, they can only shake their heads in disbelief and wonder at the disconnect between them and the more extreme gun rights folks.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with a huge vacuum where information is sucked in and blown back out by both sides. We have our own facts and our own opinions and somewhere in the middle lies the truth. During my church service today, just as we are leaving the Christian Epiphany season, I decided that there is a better way to be, talk and write about the gun control issue. The sermon today and the readings from Isaiah 49 and Matthew 6 were about God trusting in us to do the right thing and that we should not worry about the small stuff ( like filling our closets with clothing and our cupboards with food when we have enough) but about the actual worries. We should be worried about each other and not ourselves. We should be doing for others and making sure they have what we have. Most importantly, God will not forget us as we go about our daily lives. Not to worry.
My minister used the bird image from the Matthew text today. Birds provide for themselves and their babies but don't worry about getting their food because God provides for them anyway. They must be happy because when they sing, we stop to listen ( or at least I do). It happens that I love to watch birds and have a feeder close to my kitchen window. I love their songs and their colors. When a pair of Cardinals show up at the feeder, I am in awe of their colorful feathers and their beautiful song. Birds make me happy and allow me to forget my anger, fear or worries for just a minute or two. From Matthew 6: ("Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?")
Other people have written about this better than I. Here is an article from Sojourners written by Ernesto Tinajero about getting along after the Tucson shootings. Hear his plea, written shortly after Congresswoman Giffords was shot: " Today, stop and kiss your child on her forehead; caress your wife or husband; tell your parents you love them. Today, stop and do not ask whose side will benefit, who is wrong and who is right, but remember the delicate crystal gift that is our small lives." And today, from United Church of Christ minister Donna Schaper ( my own denomination) comes this piece. Reverend Schaper writes: "Guns, finally, cannot prevail. Justice can. It is utter pragmatism. When all are fed, there will be peace. When all have respect, there will be peace. When we say these things and mean them, with our bodies and our souls, justice has already arrived."
The hymn at the end of my church service today was: " How Can I Keep from Singing." My epiphany came when I thought about the ugliness of the debate over guns and gun laws. It needn't be that way. Both sides can learn from each other. When one side attacks, the other fights back. I find myself saying insulting things back to those who so viciously attack me. I am not ordinarily a snarky or insulting person. I hate it when I feel my ire raise at a comment directed at me so personally. I want us to be adults and learn from each other. We may not agree about everything but we could find a way to live in harmony without fearing that our lives will be overturned if the other side "wins". I know that some of the pro gun folks feel threatened to their core about the things I am proposing or suggesting here. And I fear that what they want is something that will cause more injuries and deaths to families and friends. They are afraid for their way of living. But perhaps by worrying less about the small things that interfere with our ability to communicate, we could try being more positive.
I have had my way of living changed by bullets. I know many others who have. Most of the folks I know who are survivors/victims lost a loved one because of a bullet shot by the gun held in the hand of a law abiding citizen who became so angered in a dispute or felt so powerless, so depressed, so drunk and irrational, that a gun seemed to be the only way out. It happens so quickly and it can't be taken back. Words can be taken back if people have the will and integrity to take them back. Bullet wounds are permanent. The loss of life is permanent. People grieve. There is a woman in my home town who is blogging about the shooting death of her beloved sister at the hands of an estranged husband. I feel her anguish and loss with every word she writes. It has been less than a year now since a domestic dispute led to the death of her sister. We are sisters, she and I. We have felt the loss of a sister. That is why we want things to change. We are not doing this to get even with anyone or to punish other folks with guns. We just don't want this to happen to others. We, too, feel vulnerable because of what a person with a gun did to change our lives. Just as the pro gun folks seem to feel vulnerable when we tell our stories to make change happen. I have hope, as it says in the Bible readings today, that the day will come when we can have a democratic and common sense discussion leading to common ground. Lives depend on it. Can we trust each other?