“Tell me who profits from violence, and I will tell you how to stop it.” -Henry Ford
Guns don’t kill people. People kill people, and people with guns kill a lot of people.
What did our founders have in mind when they penned the Second Amendment? The Second Amendment reads; “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin point out in their book Beating Guns: Hope for people who are weary of violence, “Before the rapid-fire guns of the nineteenth century, a skilled shooter could shoot only twice in a minute. In the nineteenth century, that number grew to twenty-five shots per minute. As early as 1864, one man boasted that he could shoot ninety rounds so fast that the gun became too hot to touch…Now, an unskilled shooter can shoot over one hundred rounds in a minute with a legally owned semiautomatic handgun or rifle. If a gun is customized with bump stocks, a person can even shoot multiple bullets per second. Gun barrels are made thicker in part to handle the heat of rapid fire.”
Today is the anniversary of the Westside School Shooting which occurred on March 24, 1998 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Perpetrators Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, fatally shot four students and a teacher and both were arrested when they attempted to flee the scene. Ten others were wounded. Golden and Johnson were convicted of five murders and ten assaults, and were imprisoned until each turned 21 years of age. The massacre was the second deadliest non-college school shooting in contemporary U.S. history until the April 1999 Columbine High School massacre, that seemed to unleash one mass shooting after another.
I don’t care if you own a gun. I do care that monsters have guns. I do care that we are reluctant to do anything about the mental health disorders that produce monstrous acts. The tragic news reminds us that evil comes from within and without. We fear the foreign terrorist, but refuse to address the homegrown terrorist and the weapons that they wield.
On November 5, 2017, at a Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas, the killer walked up to the church and started indiscriminately firing into the church, then continuing his killing spree inside. The news reported that 26 were killed and some 30 were wounded. The shooter was chased down and found dead by a concerned neighbor of the church. The neighbor was armed, and maybe that is what led some to push to bring guns to church. It was shortly after this shooting that a man brought a gun to church in Tennessee. He was showing it off to the congregation, making a case for how guns are ordained by God to protect us when the gun went off, shooting him in the hand and his wife in the stomach. Another church member thought it was another shooting taking place and called the police. In response, every school within fifteen miles was locked down.
The madness continues. Atlanta. Boulder. Over and over again. No doubt, in the days and weeks to come the ongoing debate concerning gun control will once again come and go. Just as it did last month after the shooting in Las Vegas when 58 people were killed in ten minutes. While the Constitution of the United States guarantees American Citizens the “Right to bear arms,” why does this particular Amendment stir such passions? Why the reluctance to legislate “common sense” gun control measures? Why do we live in fear of others, more than we fear weapons that empower their evil deeds?
The gun, it seems is a central part to our national identity. We took up arms and rebelled against a tyrannical government. We fought each other with guns to put an end to slavery. We challenged each other to duals to resolve our differences. This is the legacy of the American love affair with guns. It is a paradox of sorts. A “chicken and egg” conundrum, and it isn’t entirely clear if guns are the cause or the solution to this carnage. Of course, central to this debate, are traditions of hunting and hobby that involve guns. Neither of these require me to have semi-automatic weaponry. If I want a tank, can I have a tank? Unlikely this is part of my Second Amendment liberties.
But why do these disagreements on rights keep us so divided? Why is the common refrain, “They are going to take our guns?” It is difficult to imagine that the crafters of the Second Amendment could have envisioned the death that could be inflicted on so many in such a short amount of time. Or perhaps, the founding fathers did imagine that change would come, that technology would advance, and that a good and free people would insure the necessary moral underpinnings to secure the rights and the securities of the citizenry at the same time. It is obvious that the moral foundation of the nation has changed. In some instances, for the better, and in some, for the worse. But for whatever reason, the moral certitude that once collectively convinced us all that murder is wrong, seems to be lost on some. Shouldn’t we consider that our collective response should be to make it as difficult as possible for the immoral to obtain these weapons. Will they still find a way? Yes. Will the evil hearted still maim, hurt, and kill? Yes. But killing 58 in ten minutes or less will be a great deal more difficult.
Why do Christians seem to especially love their guns? Jesus told Peter when he was in a position to defend himself, “Put away your sword.” But we won’t holster our guns? We won’t surrender the most lethal of these killing machines for the greater good? I’m not talking about your hunting rifle or shotgun. I’m talking about weapons of war. Are we so insistent on our rights that we can’t see the harm perpetuated by these weapons?
Perhaps those that perpetrate these mass shootings are simply monsters? But why do we make it so easy for monsters to be armed? Perhaps a good guy with a gun will continue to be necessary to put down the bad guy with a gun? But where will this cycle of mayhem end? In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “An eye for an eye leaves us all blind.”
Lord help us all. Come quickly Lord Jesus.