Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gun violence, regulation, and love


Meriah Calvert prays during a candlelight vigil on Oct. 1 in Roseburg, Oregon.

Until this world is made new, violence will not stop. Until then, we pursue love...

Some may scoff at such things, but since about 11am Mountain Time, I've been in knots about something...something that felt both distant and near. I couldn't place my finger on it. But it was as real and tangible to me as the keyboard on which I type. Then this. Do you recall the "life force" that Yoda talks about in "Star Wars", the the force or influence that gives something its vitality or strength, the spirit or energy that animates living creatures? Being plugged into this has been something to which I seem to have been born. And a piece of it, a piece with a distinct signature (my hometown), was not right. Now I know why. But knowing why doesn't take the pain away nor make sense of the senselessness. God, please let love flow. Please help us to keep hatred and malice and blame away. Please help us to see this world made new. Please help us to love...
Get this image from the Ford Family Foundation

In response to a recent mass shooting at the community college I attended and where I met my wife, I was recently asked about my 'take' on open carry policies at schools.

I'm still not fully sure of my take.

I don't believe gun violence is the problem. The violence is symptom of larger, more deeply-seeded issue(s). Issues of poverty of mind/soul/bank accounts, people feeling unloved and in utter despair, mental illness, lack of belonging, and so many others!

I  support open and concealed carry, both. I regularly carry during hunting season and when playing in the woods (familiarity with firearm use is tremendously important, in my mind). I think a policy of MANDATED  carry is problematic (e.g., the timid/uncomfortable are probably better off not carrying). Neither do I want children carrying.

Safety is illusory. And fleeting. And the risk of something happening to you/me from a deranged shooter is so minuscule (our chances of being struck by a car are so many orders of magnitude higher) that putting guns in the hands of many more incompetent handlers without some sort of training or regular check-in on their competency levels gives me considerable pause. We don't balk at mandatory hunters safety courses before we are allowed to hunt. We don't balk at having regulations on the dairy industry keeping blood and puss levels below an "acceptable" level in our glasses of milk. We don't balk at having regular check-in with drivers license or for aged drivers. We don't allow children to drive. I don't think I have many issues with making gun ownership more rigorous (e.g., required education programs, safety, handling, situational scenario play, routine relicensing, etc.). Yet, I also worry about someone keeping track of my guns (or any of my belongings; strange that we largely find it acceptable for businesses to keep track of our purchasing/browsing habits, though; whole other topic).

Would I rather have more rigorous gun ownership requirements (presuming there is sufficient public oversight so as to keep from government overrun) than not? I think so. It would depend on the likelihood of such requirements thwarting potential attacks. The gun lobby is tremendously powerful and has ensured our right to continued bearing of arms. Sadly, I find the gun lobby and its message to have been mostly hijacked by a few individual businessmen bent primarily on profits. I get economic motivations. I like to make money, too. But profits have taken center stage over values (to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). We cannot serve two masters (God and money).

Navy Yard Shooting, Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle
I don't see this as an all-or-nothing issue (everyone with a gun vs. nobody or just police/military with guns). It seems like there IS common ground (public opinion polls bear this out). But our governance system is so in shambles and public confidence in it at all-time lows, I'm not sure new policies would be as effective at addressing the ROOT(s) of the problem (mentioned previously) as they should be. Too many policies, in my mind, do less about addressing problems as they do addressing symptoms. If I have a cancerous tumor, I don't want to just treat the pain it brings. I want the cancer itself treated and gone. Sadly, I don't think enough policies have this sort of focus. Well-intentioned, maybe (probably?). But still missing the mark.

Long story even longer, I'm still not how to get to B (less gun violence) from A (here). But neither unregulated access nor complete lockdown seem to be viable options (either end of the spectrum). There is a middle ground, of that I'm sure (very few issues have simple yes/no, right/wrong answers). How to get there, however...another story.

But I leave you with a poem that - upon re-reading it today - struck me particularly deeply: Wendell Berry's The Peace of Wild Things. (or hear Wendell read it)

Rest in the grace of the world, and be free.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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