Just as with many others, the violence in Arizona stays with me.
As impactive as this event has been on our psyche, it is difficult to file it away as another footnote in the pages of recent history of our country and our society. The event has transpired, but it has not passed. So many of us try to examine it and deconstruct it and dissect it in what seems to be a futile attempt to understand it. Perhaps to understand how this event came to be could help us know how to prevent it in the future. For many others there is no compulsion to understand it, that understanding it is not a prerequisite to preventing it. Prevention is paramount, and anything that is not an immediate action toward doing so is simply burning daylight.
The phoenix of discussion that always arises from the ashes of previous shooting incidents is the discussion of gun control. On one side of the discussion are those that would like to see a greater restriction on the steps it takes to purchase guns, throttling the flood of available firearms that are capable of causing such damage, monitoring who may be stable and qualified enough to be recipients and owners of firearms. On the other side are those who find it specious to blame the weapon rather than the perpetrator for the violence. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. They just happen to do so with the help of guns.
Although I am often considered by those that know me to qualify for a label of somewhat liberal along the socio-political spectrum, I do have to agree with the freedom of guns folks when they say that guns aren’t the problem. Where we do come to a fork in the road and part ways with a tentative handshake is our perspectives on the need for gun ownership. A former Army Ranger would tell me stories of how his Army buddies would nudge him with a “Check this out!” and brandish a weapon they acquired that was capable of turning a Volkswagen Beetle into a deck of playing cards used in a game of 52 Pickup. When he would ask them the necessity of having that degree of firepower in their personal weapon of choice, their response would be invariably, “You know… just in case.”
It appears that this idea behind personal protection has played fast and loose in the environment of our society. The lines have become blurred between using a weapon to protect our family from potentially dangerous home invaders to protecting our social and ethical ideologies from being encroached upon by lawmakers or social sects that threaten what we believe is right against wrong. After all, wasn’t Jared Lee Loughner protecting himself from what he perceived to be threats to his peace of mind? It’s easy to say that the man who fired upon a home invader had good reason to take a life, as do soldiers of war, but if we take each and every act of defense and arm it with a deadly weapon, where do we determine the cutoff line? Where do we separate those who do versus those who don’t deserve to die at another’s hand?
Every time we perceive a potential threat to our way of life, every time we give our personal power away by pointing a finger at what we believe has caused our lives to turn out the way we are, we create a threat, an enemy. The only way to combat an enemy is to become the bigger threat, to carry the bigger stick, “just in case”. If we restrict the ability to obtain a gun to the degree of nearly impossible, our violent response will simply be to reach for the next available thing to turn into a weapon. Gun control will not alleviate judgment of those who are in contrast to our ideologies, nor will it make it more difficult to place blame on our helplessness to the power of government or big business or to speak ill of people with whom we don’t see eye to eye. Making deadly weapons inaccessible will not include the deadly weapons of separating out the human race by Us vs. Them, of marginalizing people who do not embrace our way of life, our religious beliefs or our political leanings.
Gun control is just taking away the ability to have final say in an argument. If we know our beliefs are valid and safe in the face of those who have contrasting beliefs and if we respect their beliefs as much as we insist they respect ours, we have no need for self-defense.