Guns, violence, debates – stats, stats and more stats – stats that show more gun deaths in the US than all the wars in the US combined. Stats that show that if you take out the four leading gun death cities in the US (which happen to have the strictest gun laws in the nation) we go from the fourth most violent nation to the fourth least violent nation. Stats, stats, and more stats. Or as Mark Twain once said – lies, damn lies and statistics.
I’ve read people’s comments that it’s patriotic to enact gun restrictions because it will protect fellow citizens. I’ve read comments about how we register drivers, why not guns. I’ve read things about people saying that gun restrictions are “common sense.”
I’ve also read comments that state that guns are different because we have this pesky thing called the 2nd amendment and you can’t just register guns when owning a gun is a right, not a privilege granted by the state. I’ve read comments how the government is trying to take away people’s rights to defend themselves. I’ve read things that people say that arming more people would be “common sense” since criminals would know that people could respond with force to protect themselves.
We’ve now reached the point in the “gun debate,” if we can call it that, that I have absolutely no expectation that anything will happen to impact the real challenge facing our society – a view that violence, whether with a gun or not, is an acceptable way to resolve a situation. Why? Because we have now started labeling opponents to our view on the situation. This isn’t new though. And give it a week or so and we’ll be onto the next divisive issue. You see, opponents are obstacles, no longer people. They are idiots, stupid, gun nuts, socialists, communists, tyrants, Bible thumpers, and dangerous – and that’s just the short list.
I find it ironic that each comment, each statement, each statistic and each label is a loaded term, verbal ammunition with the intent of neutralizing an opponent or enemy. We aren’t shooting each other with actual bullets. Instead we shoot those with opposing views through our words. Those that disagree with us become “they” – that nameless, faceless group of others who are out to destroy our rights, our safety and our country.
Do we really think that by insulting someone else they will come around to our way of thinking? Do we really think that by throwing a whole bunch of statistics at someone, we’ll somehow convince someone to give up their beliefs and ways of thinking all of a sudden? Do we really think that those who disagree with our way of thinking are idiots who couldn’t possibly have a good reason to come to the conclusion that they did? Did we ever stop to think that those people think the same thing about us?
Can we stop with the statistics and loaded language and labels? You want to know why gun debates continue? It’s the same reason that we still have a race problem, drug problem, abortion debate, gay marriage debate and a whole host of emotionally divisive challenges facing our country and world. We aren’t interested in listening, but in being right. If “they” can’t see our way as right, then by God, they should be forced to comply or be shamed into submission.
It’s as if we thrive and feel alive when there is divisiveness, strife, conflict and death (either in a physical form or a person’s reputation).
Aren’t we called to something different? Especially we Christians. Aren’t we called to live and act differently. Aren’t we called to love those who hate us, to reach out to the “other” amongst us? To show compassion and acknowledge value in people as Children of God. That’s kind of hard to do when we belittling one of these Children of God isn’t it?
We can spend a great deal of time and energy bickering in political debate and feel righteously justified in belittling those who don’t “get it” – whatever the “it” happens to be. Or we can live differently. The political class will continue to divide and debate. It’s fun to debate and to think that by debating we are changing the world and furthering the truth. It’s fun to get wrapped up in our emotions and feel like we have righteous indignation because we are defending the truth.
However, all the debates in the world do not help a single person. What if we started acting on our beliefs instead of trying to force others to live by our standards? What if we started showing compassion to for those that we disagreed with? We can still disagree on many things, but what would happen if we actually listened to the reason why someone holds a different view? What would happen?
What would happen if we left the fear, anger, and self-righteousness behind and said “I don’t have all the answers, but I want to learn.” What if we became sure of one thing – that we didn’t know what the right answer was, but we had some ideas that might be helpful. What if we started to believe that someone with an opposing viewpoint might have a good idea or point and that working together, we might come to a common solution that neither side even imagined, but was better because it held up what both sides valued and actually worked towards a common goal.
Are we really concerned with solving the problems and challenges we face – like gun violence – or are we more concerned with being right and having things go the way we want them to? A great many people have died in the past at the hand of someone more concerned with being right on any given issue, than with actually tackling the issue. Enough already!