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Into the Cross Hairs

High profile shootings occur every year or so; Gabby Giffords, Treyvon Martin, Virginia Tech, and Columbine come to mind. The latest chapter was played out in Aurora, Colorado where a disturbed young man took his automatic rifle with a 100 round drum of bullets out on as many people as he could put in his cross hairs. Of course, other countries have mass shootings too (Norway and Finland), but they typically enact tough gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Not so in the US.

The NRA and their supporters have been very effective in shouting down any movement toward common sense gun control. The United States leads the world in gun ownership and, as a result, we have twenty times more gun-related murders (10,000 annually) as other high income countries. Afraid of a backlash, preachers and politicians typically sidestep the topic completely, leaving us doomed to repeat the same cycle of violence over and over again.

While the 2nd Amendment gives every citizen the right to bear arms, it was written when homesteaders were at the mercy of outlaws and Indians. It was back when neighbors formed posses and militias, and many hunted for food. Now, virtually every community has a police force that is a 911 call away, not to mention grocery stores. We also have the most powerful military the world has ever known, so we are probably not in danger of being invaded by a foreign country any time soon.

The 2nd Amendment is also there to make a stand against our own government, should it become too oppressive. Extreme gun enthusiasts are quick to find fault in public policies or certain politicians as an excuse to feed their dark fantasies and stockpile weapons. Civilization would have to become seriously derailed for guns to play a part in a survival scenario. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who had rather prepare for the Apocalypse than work for a better world in the here and now.

I know many pro-gun proponents who are strong Christians, but it is difficult to find support for their beliefs in the Bible. Sure, there are plenty of bloody battles in the Old Testament, but that does not mean that violence was ever God’s first choice. God condemned the killing of Abel and, a couple of chapters later, we are told God decided to destroy the entire earth with a flood because, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and full of violence.” (Genesis 6:11) Even though King David was a man after God’s heart, he wasn’t allowed to build the temple because “you have been a man of war and have shed blood.” I Chronicles 28:3

Jesus presents a radically different approach to conflict resolution, whether he was blessing peacemakers, or telling his followers to turn the other cheek and love their enemies. When the authorities arrested Jesus, Peter drew a sword and cut off a soldier’s ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26: 52) Jesus challenges us to go beyond taking an eye for an eye, and examine how we view others, even those who would do us harm.

It is instinctual to want to protect our families, but we know more guns actually make society more dangerous. A study by Harvard researchers found that the states with the top 25% of household firearm ownership had a homicide rate that was 60% higher than the rest of the nation. Compared with the states in the bottom 25% of gun ownership, the top 25% had 114% greater firearm related homicides. A map of gun-related deaths in the US clearly shows that firearm deaths are significantly higher in states with fewer gun control restrictions.

Making sure our neighbors are fed, sheltered, and educated is a much better security system than preparing to do battle against them. Instead, many want to slash programs that benefit society as a whole, while refusing to compromise on reasonable gun restrictions (such as limiting high capacity clips and banning assault weapons). Some are even trying to push guns into our parks, bars, and schools. Besides the number of shootings (accidental and otherwise) that will inevitably rise, we are becoming a nation that accepts violence as a way of life. As a result, we are moving further away from the example Jesus set on the cross and closer into the cross hairs.


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18 Responses to “Into the Cross Hairs”

  1. Karen Langford says:

    Excellent, excellent article! You hit the nail on the head! I don’t know where common sense went in all of this. People want everyone to be able to carry guns wherever they go. Problem is, the majority are not trained. Anyone can get over-the-counter guns with no training whatsoever. One argument I hear is that if someone starts shooting, such as in the case with Aurora, then if everyone had guns, someone could have stopped him. Maybe. But what would have happened is that in the midst of panic, it would have been a free for all shooting spree and more innocent people would have been killed because people with guns who aren’t trained would have been shooting off the cuff. (People don’t just stand still for you to take aim; people were running all over the place in panic.)

    Can you imagine guns on college campuses with as much drinking the kids do? Or in bars with all the drinking? We have enough problems with people drinking and driving and killing people!

    Again, great article!

  2. Bob says:

    Another powerful essay! I wish every member of Congress had a copy of this. Your description of people who would , “rather prepare for the Apocalypse than work for a better world in the here and now” captured the heart of the problem. Keep up the good work.

  3. Brian R Pateman says:

    An excellent and reasoned piece. Thank you.

    Not all shootings happen in the USA. A couple of year ago my own village was shattered by shootings. The guns were legally owned in our case as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumbria_shootings

    • Jeff says:

      Thanks – and thanks for sharing. I see where the shooting in your town was by a man who was licensed to have a gun. Certainly, there are always going to be deranged/violent people in the world. As I pointed out, in the aftermath, many countries (especially wealthier nations) do respond with tougher gun laws. For example, in 1996, a gunman killed 35 victims in Australia. The country responded by banning assault rifles, extending the waiting period to purchase, buying back illegal guns, and making it a law to register every firearm. Since then, gun-related crimes are down dramatically, including homicides, robberies with guns, and even suicides with guns. http://motherboard.vice.com/2012/8/1/australia-is-a-case-study-for-mass-shootings

  4. Michelle says:

    Excellent article, with this exception:

    “outlaws and Indians”

    Native Americans, you mean? The people who built their homes and raised their families on land that was violently taken from them? The guns used in that particular instance gave a distinct advantage to the bearers, and the natives that survived were sent (or sentenced) to live on reservations. How can you condone violence against one people, and then speak of love in the case of another?

    • Jeff says:

      While I didn’t use the politically word, I wasn’t condoning violence against all Native American people. My point was that, if you were a settler in the 1700s, you had a greater need to protect yourself from a host of very real threats. We (European settlers) did far more damage to them, but Native Americans did attack homesteads and villages from time to time.

      Good point on Columbus.

  5. Michelle says:

    Remember: Christopher Columbus called them Indians because he was lost.

  6. Nils says:

    Great article Jeff. Just last night I posted a similar piece on my blog at http://soulthoughts.com/?p=2775

    In my post I referred to an article by a former Prime Minister of Australia who brought in excellent new gun laws after we had a major gun massacre in 1996. I agree with him that since then Australia is a safer nation.

    I love America (I have a brother in Florida), but I really worry about the culture of increased fear that has come about because of the gun culture. This has been reinforced recently by the huge increase in gun sales since Aurora.

    The basis of any civilised society is trust, so a decrease in levels of trust between citizens such as that brought about by the extreme fear in America at the moment, is a sure sign of a breakdown of the society as a whole. America is a damaged, wounded nation, and I pray that its leaders will have the courage to lead the way back to hope, especially in this election year.

    • Jeff says:

      I enjoyed your piece as well Nils. I came across Australia’s history with gun control after I wrote this story (see comment below). Once again, the results are very clear: more guns = more gun violence. I recently had this discussion/argument with someone who was trying to make the case that since all the criminals have guns, we need to arm ourselves too. This wrong on so many levels – and it’s the kind of thinking that makes us an increasingly violent/dangerous nation. Once again, we saw another shooting today at a temple today. Yet another symptom that something is very wrong.

  7. Mark says:

    Jeff –
    As a proud, responsible gun owner, I feel I should jump in here –

    “While the 2nd Amendment gives every citizen the right to bear arms…”
    – It does no such thing. 2A is a government’s warning to itself never to infringe an already-existing right.
    “…every community has a police force that is a 911 call away”
    – The Aurora shooting was over and the assailant was waiting for the police outside, even though they reportedly arrived in 90 seconds. It’s the same pattern in all such incidents. The well-meaning professionals on the police force cannot protect you, and make no claim to that obligation. Ask them.
    “…people who had rather prepare for the Apocalypse than work for a better world in the here and now.”
    – Agreed, my friend. And that is where you come in. As it is written, it is your destiny to inherit the Earth, after you forge it into a world worthy to be called the a kingdom of God. It is my destiny to ensure your safe passage.
       In the meantime, you mustn’t cling to the sad notion that we can somehow eradicate evil and force our world into a state of utopia simply by outlawing the implements of violence and eliminating the tools of war, with no apparent hope or intention of curing the natural human aggression and innate blindness that sow the seeds of hatred and perpetuate ignorance. As well, you lack any substantive plan to deal with all governments’ perfectly normal appetite for meritless power and expansion, or with any leader’s inherent yearning to gain absolute control of his own countrymen.
       We are surely lost if our insight is so limited that all we can think to do is round up all the guns, or attempt to reduce crime through preemptive strikes against liberty and the law-abiding rather than the criminals. 

    Go with God, brother. Pray to be delivered from Evil, and let Evil pray to be delivered from me.
    All good wishes
    Mark
    PS – feel free to print my email – I’m trying to start a national dialog on this topic, and would welcome any and all input.

    • eslaporte says:

      I could not agree with you more Mark…”For the record” I am a progressive Christian and a member of the Social Democrats USA. I also have a Master’s in National security studies.

      Now – the often vocal and misinformed anti-military and anti-gun ilk is a drag on the American political left. American culture, especially here is Wisconsin, has firearm ownership as a part of its identity. There is nothing wrong with a citizen who is neither criminal or crazy from carrying a pistol. In fact – the anti-gun ilk appears to promote the notion that “most people are like James Holmes” – that most people are criminally minded and/or mentally unbalanced. The problems of urban gun violence are to be found in other solutions other than gun-grabbing – like working for good paying, easy to get jobs and services to help rebuild jobs in urban communities.

      Second – those who promote the notion that America should just disband its military — and we will – magically – have world peace are also ignorant of how the international system operates. It is still a very dangerous international system out there (just ask Turkey living next to Syria) – and to have a strong military should be the imperative of every Progressive and Leftist American president. It is not the presence of a strong military that causes problems … but how that military power is used and abused. The day America disbands its military is the day that America is invaded and conquered!

      • Jeff says:

        1. It’s not that “most people are criminally minded and/or mentally unbalanced.” But there are enough people who are unbalanced, that we shouldn’t give them access to firearms. Plus, there are also people that are otherwise pretty normal, but have a really bad day/moment. I’d rather they (or me) didn’t have a gun within reach.

        Just wondering, what possible reason does a normal person have to carry around a gun all the time? I guess I can see it if you’re constantly going into high crime areas. Otherwise, I have to wonder what deep insecurity the gun-carrier is also carrying around.

        2. Who is talking about disbanding the US military?! I’m all for being strong on defense, but the US spends more its military than the next 17 nations – combined. We spend 4.8% of our GDP on military, or about 700 Billion – annually. If that’s not overkill, I don’t know what is.

        • Mark says:

             Jeff – you are the kind of thinker I’m looking to start a dialog with. When you ask a question like “…what possible reason does a normal person have to carry around a gun all the time?”, I get the sense that you ask because you want to know, not because you want to start an argument or make a gun nut look dumb. I’ll answer as best I can.
             When I wrote my obligatory letter to the judge who grants or denies carry permits, a letter in which applicants are asked to explain why they want to carry a pistol, I avoided the “self defense” excuse because I don’t believe it’s what motivates most men who pursue such a license. Men’s most noble instinctual trait is that we are programmed to protect, to ensure the safety of our families and others around us, and to serve the greater good first; finally we do make provision for our own defense, most importantly so that it might perpetuate our vigilance.
             In my letter I mentioned how everyone remembers the awful incident in Littleton, Colorado where two murderous shooters marched unchallenged through a high school. The school administrators, the principal, all were helpless; and the swat team did what the swat team ( or the police in Aurora ) always does – they showed up when it was all over, by absolutely no fault of their own.
             But, I told the judge, very few people remember an incident two years prior to that in Pearle, Mississippi. Another shooter started on his deadly stroll through the school; when the vice principal heard the first shots,  he raced to retrieve his own licensed .45 from his car and he did what men do – he ran back inside into unknowable peril, he stopped the assailant without firing a shot ( the sight of a good .45 sometimes has that effect ), and he held the assailant for the police.
             I concluded my letter with “As men, it is only right for us to pray that if we are ever faced with such an emergency, that we would have the chance and fortitude to aspire to be the vice principal from Pearle rather than the unfortunate, helpless souls in Littleton.”
             Carrying “around a gun all the time” is not everyone’s calling. And frankly, it can be a pain in the butt. But the more some of us hear about incidents involving violent individuals preying on the defenseless, the stronger we become in our resolve to always be in a position to physically act against violence if we can. 
             As the world forges ahead toward being inherited by our honorable and gentle brethren, we follow nearby, honoring our assignment to a different destiny.

             May I close with a side note? We just had that incident in our glorious, gunless New York City where a guy popped his ex-boss, ran around the block to escape, and was confronted by two NYC police officers who proceeded to shoot him and 9 innocent bystanders. Ray Kelly and Mike Bloomberg don’t want guns in their city in the hands of untrained civilians. That’d be dangerous. They’ll tell you the police will protect you. Like they protected the assailant’s prime target, and protected at least the faster and more agile bystanders …
             … I forgot where I was going with this …

  8. Mark says:

    PPS – I realize there’s already a “national dialog on this topic” – there is much that is wrong with the firearms laws in this country, but whenever a resolution is sought, the inevitable end is an impasse between two sides whose shared delusional paranoia precludes meaningful exchange. Sarah Brady is as guilty of this closed-minded irrationality as is the NRA. That’s what I want to fix.
    Mark

  9. Mark says:

    Wow – nothing? You mean to tell me I shut this down…?

    • Jeff says:

      Hey Mark,

      Thanks for your comments… I just got busy and didn’t get a chance to respond. It’s good to get a gun owner’s perspective and, while I appreciate and agree with some of your assessments, there are areas where we diverge.

      We can’t stop every deranged person with a gun, but the police were there in 90 seconds. I think supports my position that the police do a pretty good job!. I don’t think it would have been a better situation if several in the movie were packing heat and trying to hit the gunman in a dark, smoke filled theater. You may be able to handle a gun, but that doesn’t mean everyone who can get a gun can shoot one – or control himself to use it responsibility (see Treyvon Martin).

      As I pointed out in the article, whether you are looking at states with stricter gun laws or countries with tough restrictions, the results are almost always the same: more guns equal more death and violence. I don’t consider myself a pacifist, but I also don’t think we can blast our way into a better way of life. Violence always has unintended and adverse consequences. In other words, violence begets more violence, further fueling a vicious cycle. I believe that was what Jesus was referring to. While I tend to believe that some guns are necessary in the real world, ultimately, we can only usher in in better world by laying down our weapons of mass (and individual) destruction.

      • Mark says:

        Well put, as usual, sir.

        Thanks for the reply – I wish I could express myself as well as you. More than a 2A enthusiast, I am a frustrated writer. There’s nothing more gorgeous than perfect expression in the written word.
        So keep it up! :)
        Mark

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I grew up in Franklin Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, where I attended a charismatic church that sincerely tried to follow Christ's teachings and actively sought the gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the summer of 84, I interned in DC with the Reagan-Bush Re-Election campaign and was indoctrinated in the dark arts of neo-conservatism. After graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I worked in the financial services industry in Atlanta; then I drifted back to Southern California for a few introspective years before eventually moving home to Tennessee. Along the way, I began to question some of my longstanding beliefs and attempted to reconcile my political and religious views. Increasingly, I became saddened and angered with how Christianity was so often misrepresented for personal and political gain. Hometown Prophet was written out of that frustration.

- Jeff Fulmer