An Honest Attempt to Explore Both Sides of the Gun Issue
The United States has seen some overwhelmingly tragic episodes of gun violence in recent months and years, and this has rightly sparked a discussion on the place of guns in our society. Clearly, we need to face the fact that gun violence claims the lives of thousands of individuals each year. Unfortunately, this nationwide discussion has quickly devolved into a divisive debate fraught with unfair accusations thrown from both sides.
We see those who support more gun control legislation accuse pro-gun advocates of not showing compassion towards those affected by gun violence, while gun rights advocates claim that the anti-gun movement is denying constitutional rights by violating the 2nd Amendment. In December, we watched as CNN host Piers Morgan got into a shouting match with Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, culminating in Morgan calling Pratt “an unbelievably stupid man.” And in early January, we listened as Vice President Biden promised that the Obama administration would take action on the issue.
It seems to me that both sides in this debate ultimately want the same thing: to see an end to these tragic events in which gun violence takes the lives of so many, as well as deeply affecting countless others. But of course, the debate becomes heated because the two sides have very different methods for exactly how to achieve that end. I believe that there are significant and valuable views in both sides, and I want to take some time to explore those.
If we start from the premise that we want to see an end to gun violence, we could conceivably accomplish that by simply removing access to guns- particularly for those who may choose to use a gun in a violent way. The gun rights movement’s popular response to this (and the inspiration for many, many memes,) is to claim that criminals don’t follow laws, and so it is illogical to assume that placing more restrictions on guns will stop criminals from misusing them- and most significantly, such restrictions will in turn make law-abiding citizens unable to protect themselves and their families. As NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre has said, ““The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
But we must also be careful not to think that we can ultimately solve violence with violence. Author and activist Shane Claiborne writes in his article, “What Would Jesus Say to the NRA?”:
“Many Christians have begun to speak of Jesus as an interruption to the “myth of redemptive violence,” the assumption that we can use violence to get rid of violence or that we can destroy a life to save a life. The myth of redemptive violence has many ugly faces. It teaches us that we can kill those who kill to show that killing is wrong. It teaches us to live by the law of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” a law that Jesus firmly spun on its head, saying, “You’ve heard it said ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth … but I tell you…” There is another way. Killing to show that killing is wrong is like trying to teach holiness by fornication. The cure is as bad as the disease.”
While I think Claiborne makes an important point here that we cannot dismiss, I do believe that self-defense- or defense of another innocent person- is a valid reason to choose to use fatal force against another human being- although this decision should be recognized as an extremely weighty one that should never be taken lightly.
And herein lies one of the greatest problems that I see with guns: the ease with which one can take a life using a gun. Killing someone with a gun is unquestionably and substantially easier than killing someone with another kind of weapon or with one’s bare hands. There is some lack of connection to the act of taking a human life when one uses a gun as opposed to using a bat, a knife or bare fists- all of which require a rage and intention that is not really necessary in the act of simply pulling a trigger. I believe that this must be recognized and taken very seriously.
I am the first to admit I do not have all the answers in this debate- nor the experience or depth of knowledge to be able to provide answers- but like so many other harshly divided issues that exist in the public sphere today, I want to see us crossing the divide and recognizing the concerns of both sides. If we refuse to do this, gun rights advocates will continue to be painted as crazed, ultra-conservative rednecks, and gun control advocates will continue to appear to be nonsensical liberals who want to repeal the 2nd Amendment and wouldn’t even protect their own families. These biased views aren’t helpful to either side, since what we all truly want is to see this debate resolved and tragedies of gun violence eliminated in our nation.