I started several times to write about guns and the American obsession with violence as entertainment. Nothing seemed to work. I kept running into local people, whom I know well, convinced that any gun control legislation, in any form, is a threat to their freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution. Some of them are among those who believe that we should arm teachers and encourage everyone to go about armed at all times. Old west vigilante justice has been romanticized without any memory of why western folks got rid of it in favor of the rule of law and, yes, the banning of guns in public places.
Some of that attitude is generated by fear, and, as one posted just today, fear not only of other armed persons, but of one’s own government. Having a stash of weapons is one way to make sure that the government does not turn into a Stalinesque police state. Not everyone is that extreme in their views, but the NRA and fellow travelers have convinced many that having any gun they want without limitation is an unalienable right, an indelible mark of what American values are about. Some have been convinced that there is a secret agenda to outlaw and confiscate all weapons. Even ordinary hunters get nervous at the idea that their favorite rifle or shotgun might be restricted in some unknown way they might not like.
Lingering in the background are world events such as our decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, uprisings in Libya and Syria, the drug war in Mexico and the multitude of war lords wandering around parts of Africa. I don’t know what effect they have on the American psyche regarding guns, but imagine that it’s substantial.
There is something else contributing to all of this, and I think it is the flood of gratuitous violence in contemporary entertainment in which firearms play a staring role. Even more than television and movies, the most popular computer games seem to be all about war, revenge, crime and the successful resolution of all issues through killing, the greater the slaughter the higher the score.
The result is that guns have become objects of worship, idols to which absolute loyalty has been pledged without the slightest consideration of the consequences. Garry Wills wrote a scathing article about guns as our modern day Molech, the insatiable god that required the blood sacrifice of children in the days of ancient Israel and surrounding nations. He may have overstated the case, but not by much. Led by the gun lobby, fueled by irrational fear, and nurtured by outer fringe libertarian ideals, guns have become idols that seduce otherwise decent people into the most vile heresy. If Satan is the great deceiver, then this is a good example of what the satanic looks like.
I do not want to condemn my friends and acquaintances who have fallen into this way of thinking, and I have not yet figured out a way to write or speak that might lead them into a reasonable conversation without blowing our relationships to smithereens. To use an apt metaphor, they have a hair trigger on this issue, and cannot tolerate even the slightest suggestion that we might need some form of gun control legislation. Having a pastoral relationship with some of them makes it even more difficult.
As for me, I’d like to see guns and gun owners licensed in a way similar to how we license cars and drivers. It would require training and passing a test to get a license. Assault type weapons would be outlawed, as well as excessively large ammunition clips. To me, that’s a reasonable approach well within the intent of the Second Amendment. Would there still be scoff laws? Probably. Would it solve all gun related problems? No. So what!